Kellen is learning about the letter Q at school this week. As part of the lesson, each child was sent home with a 9 x 9 sheet of paper and was asked to use it to tell the story of their family. The class will take each of those squares and create a quilt of the classroom families.
On Monday, Kellen and I worked on his square together. He drew his stuffed shark, Tootie, who sleeps with him each night. He drew a circle with eyes, nose and mouth and some hair for each member of the family. He “wrote” in a maroon color and said, “this is UMD Bulldogs”. He drew a truck and we talked about some of his favorite things and I wrote the words on the square. He started to put the markers away but then took one and went back to the drawing. He drew a rectangle with a circle on the end and that’s when he said it, “this is Owey. Owey was born sick”.
I asked him if he could explain anymore about the image. “Is that him laying in his bed?” I questioned. “No, it’s just Owey. He was sick, but he’s getting better.” With that explanation, Kellen’s picture was complete. He put everything away and together we showed Daddy the picture. He quickly moved on to other toys.
I, on other hand, could not easily move on from our conversation. These last four days, I continue to be flooded with emotions by that simple exchange. I’m no child psychologist, but to me there is a lot of significance in his words and drawing.
I feel pride and my heart is warmed. He clearly loves and value his little brother. Owen was the only person or thing to make it on the drawing twice. Each time, he took the care to add a couple “crazy curls” to his head.
I am also sad for this little boy who understands the importance of his brother being born sick. The tone of his voice was matter of fact but also tinged with sadness. Like it’s something that weighs on Kellen.
I’m not sure if it is due to his emotional maturation or that the appropriate time has passed since we were so frequently in the hospital, but Kellen has recently started to give small glimpses of his thoughts and worries of these past 21 months. He recently told me and his teachers, “I don’t like going to the hospital.” As he said it, he searched my face to see if it’s okay to admit that. I assured him it was and that I didn’t like it either. The next time he brought it up, he got bolder. “Nobody likes the hospital, Mom”. I hadn’t heard him correctly and repeated back, “you don’t like the hospital?” His tone was frustrated, “No, Mom, I said, NOOOBODY, likes the hospital!”
These exchanges may feel small, but the thing is, for 21 months, he’s held these feelings in side. He probably didn’t have the words for what he was feeling. I also think he was afraid to tell us. He seems to understand that telling us, wasn’t going to change what was happening. I honestly believe, he didn’t want to add to our burden.
What a brave little boy and so loving. To have a brother come in and completely destroy the world as he knew it. For that brother, he has gone to scary places, seen scary things and had his parents attention taken away. All the while he loves and cares for his brother with all his whole being. Each morning he crawls into Owen’s crib to cuddle him (much to Owen’s displeasure, because 4-year-old boys don’t have the most gentle of hugs). At dinner he works to make Owen laugh and always includes him in the family discussions. Kellen takes great joy in being a big brother.
At the same time, he understands that Owen being born sick is part of the fabric of this family’s quilt. It’s not the whole of any of our existence, but the story isn’t complete without acknowledging it’s there.
What a wise and thoughtful boy.Ain't No Roller Coaster