Monday, June 25, 2012

Learning to let go

Learning to fly (photo credit: Creative Candids)
By Joel Brens

When my wife and I were thrust into uncharted waters, as first time parents of a preemie, I undoubtedly felt the need to be protective of everything relating to my son's well being. We took a very active role in his first days as a preemie. We spoke to him softly, held him as much as the nurses allowed us to, and probably asked the same 10-15 questions about a million times. We were fortunate to have a great team of nurses and doctors working with Jayden. While I do think that our gratitude for all the work they do helped forge strong relationships, I'm fairly positive that most NICU nurses and doctors are willing to explain everything they are doing and want you to be informed if taking an active role.

When we brought our son home 25 days later, my level of protectiveness grew tenfold. We were adamant about avoiding germs and keeping Jayden from public places, outside of scheduled doctors visits. I remember on a couple of occasions having to cancel plans for visitors because a small sniffle was a deal breaker for us. While I think it bummed people out, there was a understanding that we would just not budge on that risk, especially over the course of the first winter.

To be fair to this story, we placed Jayden in daycare a lot earlier than we wanted to. (about 6 months) Faced with the reality that we would not be able to sustain a living on one income, my wife resumed a working career.  I was terrified about my sons health, about him sharing germs with other babies. But knowing how hard this transition was for my wife, I decided to play it cool and not show concern, instead letting the stress eat at me from the inside.

It's funny how you adjust to the life of a parent. Everything becomes so second nature. You feel like you have a million things to do over the course of a day/week and before you know it a month has passed by. Outside of one really rough patch Jayden's health has been relatively good. He certainly doesn't look the part of a former preemie. (He weighed a whopping 34lbs 5oz and was 35.5" tall at his two year checkup) but all the same he still has some lingering issues. He has speech delays, it would be fair to think that asthma may be a concern in the future. Otherwise he looks and acts like a regular toddler. Which leads me to ask: When do you learn to just let go?

Making the transition from an overly  protective preemie parent to a parent of an everyday, risk-taking, fearless, limit-pushing boy was a tougher transition than I had expected. Here's the flat out truth: My son is going to get bumps, bruises, scratches and scrapes. I'm okay with that...almost. I swear every time my son has a blotch on his face, arm, or legs my wife asks "How did he get that?!?" Well, honey... Probably when he ran full speed into the couch and used his face as a grip on the cushion to pull himself up. I would never in a million years want Jayden to hurt himself, but I'm to the point where I think getting a bit spooked by being too adventurous wouldn't be the worst thing. I want my son to explore and be active. I also want him to understand that with all choice comes consequence, whether positive or negative.

Another thing we have "transitioned" to is discipline. Jayden needs to know that repeated disregard for instructions will lead to a "time out". He's not a fan. We will put him in his crib and walk away for two minutes. Afterwords we will explain why he was put in time out. We are so early in this phase I can't confidently endorse its effectiveness. But with all things we have done as parents, trail and error will helps us find something that works.

I hope this perspective will help another parent get over the hurdle of knowing how, or when, or for that matter, how much you are willing to let go. Every story is different, so listen to your heart and forge ahead when you feel it's time. You are, after all, the best caretaker and advocate your child will ever have.

Where has the time gone? (photo credit: Creative Candids)

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