Today my oldest son has two doctor appointments and they will take most of the day. Every six months he sees these two doctors to measure the curvature of his spine and make adjustments to his brace. G has Scoliosis.
He was diagnosed at a young age and referred to a wonderful pediatric doctor at Children’s Hospital. They monitored the curve until a growth spurt accelerated the bend, forcing him to wear a brace. An incredibly talented man, Luke, with a gift for creating braces, fit him for his first brace. Lil G handled it like a champ, but me, well not so much.
When he was diagnosed, I cried. You never want to hear that something is ‘wrong’ with your child. I worried about how it would affect him socially. Of course I hid my sadness from him and made it “no big deal,” but inside I cried every time I looked at his curved spine. When it came time to get the brace, I grew increasingly worried. How would it affect him in school? How would he play ‘normally’ with this plastic brace around his back and waist?
I remember the day Luke presented G with his first brace. The kids get to choose a design and he chose camouflage. G was actually excited to get it! He had to learn how to move in it – how to bend down – how to sleep in it – how to get up if he was laying down. A new skill set. After the newness wore off, we realized we had to buy him new pants in bigger sizes to fit over the brace along with bigger shirts to wear over the brace. He couldn’t tie his shoes comfortably. Long car rides or sitting for too long cut the circulation off in his hips and made him cramp. But aside from those inconveniences, he wore that brace and never complained despite the obstacles.
Like the worried mom I was (am!), I told all his teachers and made sure they’d understand what he would need. I worried that other kids would tease him or hurt his feelings and that he would feel he had limitations or that he was different. I worried constantly…until one day a fellow mom told me to stop and look at G interacting with the other kids.
That other mom helped me see that all of the concern and worry I was carrying around were mine and not his. When I really stopped and watched him, I suddenly saw how outgoing and confident he was with the other kids. He didn’t let that brace stop him from doing anything and no one seemed to be phased by his brace, I think because they saw that he wasn’t. And always when kids see the brace and ask “what is wrong with him,” Garrett confidently tells them he has scoliosis and his brace is fixing his back and making him stronger. He hasn’t let it slow him down one bit!
G is now in his second brace and today we will find out if he gets to cut back on how long he has to wear it daily. Since he started wearing a brace, he’s had to wear it 23 hours a day, everyday. Can you imagine? Of course he’d rather not have to wear it and yes, he has his days where he cries because he just wants a break from it, but overall, he has handled his Scoliosis and the brace with a resilience I could only hope to have if I were in his place.
When we visit these doctors, we see other children who struggle with even bigger hurdles and my heart aches for them as well. Why must innocent children be faced to carry such big crosses? While I hurt to see them struggle, I know that God is with them. I have always told my kids that God gives us challenges in life to make us stronger in our hearts and in our Faith. Now, when they see someone with ‘something wrong’ they are nurturing and repeat my words back to me….And my heart skips a beat.
As parents, we worry constantly about our kids: Are we doing right by them? Do they feel loved? Are they truly happy? Are we giving them solid roots to grow from? Are we there for them when they need us? Do we love them when they make mistakes? Are we giving them a Faith to carry through life?
I don’t think I will ever stop worrying about my three boys. But I do know that I will always be in awe of their resilience. They have not yet encountered all the hurt we have as adults and they hopefully do not bear the scars we do. They just accept what is given to them and look to us for guidance and love. What an amazing gift our children are!
Good luck today, G! My heart is with you!