Juggling your children's meals, activities, learning, moods, hormones, social lives and school schedules along with your own, can be challenging at the best of times.
So when something goes wrong for your child, that may affect them for a lifetime, only then do you realize where your strength lies and how it re enforces what it means to rise to the tough task of parenting.
Living in Hong Kong in 1999, at the age of 3, our middle son Aron was diagnosed with a rare developmental ( acquired) cataract in his right eye.
This meant he could barely see the big A on the screening board.
On an arduous journey to find the best outcome, we found ourselves in London at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital consulting the internationally renowned pediatric ophthalmic surgeon, David Taylor.
Within a few hours of being examined and the doctor ascertaining that Aron was a candidate for surgery, he was prepped and a new false lens was inserted to replace the damaged one, in his right eye.
I'd love to tell you that was the end of the story, but really it was just the beginning.
It was this new phase that re enforced for me what it truly means to parent. To love unconditionally, advocate, stay strong emotionally, be consistent, fight your flight instincts and keep your eye on the goal, all for your child's long term well-being.
Since Aron's right eye had been compromised for an undefined amount of time, the pathways from it to the brain had gotten lazy with under use.They needed to learn again how to transmit information from his eye to the brain and his brain had to learn how to 'see again'. With all the advanced technology available, it never ceased to amaze me that a simple patch, that stuck like a band-aid on his eye, was what would possibly help Aron do so.
But even that was not the biggest stumbling block to Aron regaining his sight.
As the surgeon explained to us, getting the patch on every day and Aron keeping it on, was the key to success. If we did not patch him every day for 16 hours ( to begin with) he would not learn to see at all with his right eye.
The doctor went on and explained ( and I have never forgotten his words.)
"You have 2 choices....
Patch him every day, and you will give him the greatest opportunity of improving his sight.......
Or explain to him when he is 18, that you were unable to do so and that is why he is blind in one eye."
I knew then, that I couldn't live with myself if I had to explain to Aron at the age of 18 that due to my weakness as a parent, I had not managed to patch him and that was why his right eye was unusable.
And so the challenge began.
Have you ever tried to restrain a rambunctious, single-minded toddler in someway, when they didn't want to do something? When they fought you at every turn and ran and hid?
That was my daunting, exhausting, relentless task.
Getting that patch on his eye every morning and making sure it stayed there until bed time.
There were days we both crumpled in tears from my chasing him with the patch and his refusal to wear it..
Days when my heart ached from watching him have his nose pressed to the paper on his desk, to see what he was drawing, because his good eye was patched.
Days when I would wake up and wonder if it was making any difference at all.
Days when I put him on the school bus, patched and angry and my friend Tami, comforted me as tears ran down my cheeks.
The doctor's words never left me and at Aron's first checkup, he had made a real improvement. Patching was reduced to 14 hours a day and on we went.
We had easier days, where the patch went on without a fuss and more difficult ones, when the patch was the last straw for him, because he felt unwell or frustrated or just plain fed up and exhausted with the challenge of spending most of his day finding it difficult to see. He just wanted to be like all his friends and I desperately wanted that for him too.
With consistent patching, Aron's sight improved steadily and a year and a half later, as much to the British surgeon's amazement as ours, his vision was 20/20 in both eyes.The doctor reported that many parents do not see the process through and he hardly ever saw such a perfect outcome.
Now, this little boy is our 18 year old resident EMT and firefighter. His eyesight taken for granted, as he strides through college or climbs onto the firetruck for his volunteer shift.
Why am I telling you this story, apart from it being one that gives hope and a happy ending?... Because what I have also learned is that a parent's tenacious strength, patience, belief and love is needed again and again when raising children.
Our children are relying on us to take on the fights and arguments and refusals that come along, especially when they don't want to do things that are truly in their best interests. Particularly when it comes to their health and schooling and relationships.
This morning, I recounted Aron's eye opening story to Jacob, my 13 year old. Because Jacob is now grappling with a health issue of his own, that makes it very tough to go to school when he doesn't feel 100%, but really important that he does so.
And so we have told him, his father and I have to be the parents who will advocate for his needs, knowing that he may not agree that they are in his best interests right now.
And we will also cajole, encourage, hug and push him to make sure he has the best outcome.
It's exhausting, demoralizing, frustrating and relentless and sometimes he cries and I cry.
But It will mean that when he's 18, I can sit him down, look him in the eye and tell him, from the bottom of my heart, I did the best I could for him as I did for his big brother.
Tell me about a time you found strength as a parent, you didn't know you had. What helped you most? What was your biggest challenge? What would your one piece of advice be to parents who are struggling?
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