I often wonder what my 3 mischief boys think of our family life post encephalitis and brain injury. Kids are very adaptable and their list of worries is quite different from adults ones, but as a mom, I know first-hand that we need to give them more credit. Kids are also quite perceptive and if things aren’t explained to them they will come up with their own little answers and that can generally go 3 different ways; be right on the money (that’s pretty rare), be minimised or be blown out of proportion.
Since they were little, we have always tried to be honest and truthful with our boys (within limits and common sense obviously). Finding the right approach to take post encephalitis “e” has been quite hard because recovery and long term prognosis comes with SO MANY unknowns. The doctors can’t give us definitive answers about pretty much anything so how do we in turn explain things to our kids? How do we deal the physical effects that come and go? How do we best rationalize the roller coaster of emotions? How do we justify the change of lifestyle, the shift in responsibilities and so on? They know that maman (mom) has been sick with “e”, that it gave the brain a big scramble, that this resulted in an ABI, they now know that my brain does lots of weird and wonderful things, but as they are growing older and understanding more, I find it hard to justify all the residual effects when very few answers have been presented to us.
Our life prior to “e” was full of fun, activities and adventures, full of hands on moments helping them figure things out, teaching them stuff, playing with them and just being present for them I guess. I’m still physically there for them but everything has been hugely scaled down and lots of responsibilities have had to be shifted to my partner or to themselves. At times, it seems to me that they have had to grow up pretty quickly in a very short amount of time. At times, I feel like they are missing out on so much due to my limitations and that their maman is not stepping up to the plate that comes with the “mom” title...that I am letting them down in one way or another.
Some days, I feel like I am sleeping their youth away. They are only so little for so long and with our oldest entering the double digits this year, it really hit me hard.
The following is quite a personal account but an honest one of so many thoughts that are constantly running through my mind as I carry on with life post “e”. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it is fair to take the time to acknowledge how life has changed for us as a family. I think that it is fair to let the dearest people in my life know about some of my insecurities as I believe that great learning can come out of this for all of us. I'd love to revisit below text in 5-10 years from now...see how my perception changes over time and across the ages.
Dearest Maxim Maxim (10), you are so caring and responsible. As the oldest, I often hear you ask your younger brothers to be quiet because maman has a headache or because maman is resting or is sleeping. I hear your kind words “Be quiet boys, maman needs her sleep to fix her brain”. You are fantastic at helping with a range of house chores and please know that this is so greatly appreciated. You are learning to help prepare and cook simple meals, you’ve got washing absolutely sorted and so many other things that wouldn't be expected from a boy of your tender age. You are my quiet one...you worry a lot, but you never complain or say much about how things affect your own person and feelings. I see you listening to grown up conversations where I share my grief for the life that was and I see the sadness reflected in your eyes. It worries you to see maman sad and that's when you leave your tween factor aside and come give me the best cuddles. Please know that I worry about you too Maxim. I worry that you may be worrying too much and that you may be trying to deal with all those worries all by yourself. I hope you know that everything is going to be alright and that you can share some of your worries with me. It’s ok to be happy, angry and sad. You know first-hand that things don’t always go how we’d like them too, but you don’t have to fix this situation all by yourself. Papa and I are here to help and support you! Although I am grateful that you are learning great life skills at a very young age, I do think that it is very unfair on you at time...you’d rather be playing outside with your friends obviously. I want to apologize for the impact that “e” has had on you. Every now and again I worry that you may be feeling like I’ve robbed you of a part of your youth. But then, I remember that you are my Maxim and that Maxim would never think such a thing. Maxi, I LOVE you!
Dearest Jake Jake (9), you are the typical middle child. You are our Mr mischief, super clever and always full of life and emotions. There is no grey with you, things are either black or white...you are either all in, or all out! When you cry, you cry hard, when you laugh, you laugh the loudest and when you are angry, well let’s just say that you can get angry... We often butt head but I think that it’s because I see so much of myself in you. If “e” has highlighted anything to me, it’s that I am a very determined person...but not nearly as determined as you are. I already know that you will achieve GREAT things in life. We both like to push the limits, but I hope that you are slowly realizing that pushing the limits also has its limits (don't worry, I am struggling big time with that one as well). That being said, remember that it will never serve you well to push things so far that you become your own worst enemy. An aspect that I love about our relationship is that we can talk, laugh and cry together. We can talk about stuff that we have on our minds without feeling judged and let the emotions out whatever they might be. Once it’s out, once we both had our say, only then can we move forward and not look back. There is so much you want to do and try Jake on a daily basis. Due to my limited energy post “e”, I often feel sad about putting a spanner in your wheels. For better or worse, you somehow always manage to go ahead anyway with your master plan, but I realize that you’d often love to have more support. You don’t pretend to have all the answers (not all the time anyway) and I hope you know that I am here to help but in order to do so, we just have to plan ahead a bit for now. Jake, I love that you acknowledge my new challenges. I also love that you acknowledge the little wins we’ve had along the way. “e” or no “e”, you will certainly always keep us on our toes. Jakey Jake, I LOVE you for who you are and I’m looking at a pretty cool dude.
Dearest Sebastian Sebastian (6), my baby boy, my little dude, you were oblivious to the changes that occurred for a long while...From where I stood anyway, you didn’t seem to have picked up on all those subtle changes in routine and in myself. Maman is maman and that is good enough for you as long as you are the first one to get a kiss and cuddle in bed come night time ;o). You didn’t really seem to mind the afternoon imposed naps because it was the perfect opportunity to snuggle up with maman without your older brothers trying to butt in. But 2 years have gone by now and you aren’t so keen on afternoon naps anymore. You have your own little things going on and an impressively building (never ending) list of all the things that you’d like to achieve or have when you are an adult. You aren’t our quiet little Sebastian anymore. Of late, I’ve noticed that you have stopped asking me for stuff/help. I suppose that you’ve got accustomed to my usual answer...”I’m too tired right now...maybe later”. I think we both know now that later rarely comes aye. So in the past year or so, I’ve noticed that you go straight to your papa with your sweet little dude requests. You’ve got him WRAPPED around your finger aye...I think that, even as a 6 year old, you already know that. I love that you have such an awesome papa that simply rolls with things. You guys are in lots of ways two peas in a pod and I find lots of joy in watching this relationship grow right in front of my eyes, but at times it does also make me sad to see that I’m somehow not that person stepping up for you anymore. I’m still trying to get used to not being your go to person.
You are a little dude now and quite an independent one. You will always be my baby, but you aren’t a baby anymore. Little dude, being number 3 of the family, you’ve always appeared to grow up so much faster. Know that you can always come to me for help, I hope that we can carry on baking the best cakes together...even if it's only to be able to lick the batter and icing. Sebastian, I can't wait to see what else you will be giving a go and I am so grateful to have been blessed with you as our number 3. Sebastian, I love love LOVE you.
Boys, I see you, I hear you, and I am here for you and I love you more than you will ever know.