Let Them Lead

She sat on the floor for the last round of practice. It was only the second dance practice they had attended. I got within her line of sight and signed to Tessa to stand up.

She refused. “My side hurts too bad mom.” I knew better and I signed to her once more…stand up. She stomped her feet two times and exclaimed that she couldn’t do it; that she just couldn’t keep up. “Yes you can,” I reminded her.

When practice was over, she pouted all the way to the car. “I’m not good at dance mom. I did really bad.” No matter how many times I reassured her that she did great, she remained discouraged. About a mile outside of town, she began to cry. I began to say something again with the hopes of boosting her spirits; but her younger sister interrupted me, and I let her take the lead.

“Tessa, listen. If you think you’re bad at something, then everyone will think you are bad at it. But if you think you’re the best, then you are the best no matter what!” My eyes were glued to the road ahead of me as I absorbed her beautiful words, so simply stated.

She continued, “…your robot move was awesome! I think you did it better than me for sure! This is our first time doing dance, and we have to keep practicing to get better, okay? So don’t worry about it.” Tessa sniffled once more, and agreed with what her sister said. Together, they sang Christmas songs the rest of the ride home.

Who was this wise old soul sitting in the back of my car, and what did she do with my five year old daughter? I guess all of that Full House watching has really paid off!

When we got back home, I shared with my husband what had just transpired during our ten minute drive home. He pulled Kendal into the living room and told her how kind she is and how proud he was of her genuineness in helping her big sister feel better.

There have been few moments in parenthood that have actually rendered me speechless, and this was one of them. While our youngest daughter certainly does challenge us with her strong will and spirited personality, she also has the innate ability to encourage and uplift.

I often question myself as a mother. For me it just comes with the territory. Always wondering if I am doing a good enough job to ensure our children are compassionate to those around them, but never quite sure that they fully grasp the concept. Hoping each morning that when they walk out the door, they go with open hearts to share with others.

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”-Angela Schwindt

Raising children isn’t about how perfectly we do it. I know because I am far from perfect, and my youngest girl just swooped in and saved the day in true Danny Tanner fashion.

Sometimes our kids lead the way for us when we can’t figure it out. More and more, we’re letting them.

On This Day…

Five years ago today, we received a phone call. Earlier that morning I had taken Tessa to the hospital to get her labs drawn. She was on a wait and watch protocol for Myelodysplastic Syndrome, and we knew at some point she would likely transition to leukemia. Many months led up to that moment in our living room where my husband and I sat together while listening closely to the voice on the other end of the phone. She had only said my name and I knew. Before she could finish her sentence, hot tears streamed down my cheeks.

Even though we knew this was coming, we still clung to the little bit of hope that this was all a mistake. That her labs and biopsies were incorrect. That there was a chance she could avoid treatment. It was something we told ourselves on the surface to save face; all the while knowing that this was inevitable. Our daughter had cancer and lives shifted forever.

Her body was covered in petechiae. Her skin was as pale and mottled. She was weak and miserable, crying in our arms. Our baby was sick…really sick. On the phone, the doctor urged us to get her to the hospital immediately. She told us to pack bags for at least a week long stay in the hospital while they ran more tests to figure out the best course of treatment. In the midst of packing, I remembered our six month old baby at daycare and my heart shattered. What would happen to our family?

Before leaving town, I pulled up to our daycare to see our littlest babe while my husband and Tessa waited in the car. Unaware of our troubles, her face lit up with excitement when she realized her mommy was there. As I scooped her up in my arms, I wondered when I would get to see her again. I walked away from that house not knowing if that terrible disease would take her big sister from her. Fear won that day and several days to come.

The hours that followed are now muddled memories. People rushed in and out of our hospital room, throwing medical terms and phrases at our blank faces. They asked questions we didn’t have answers to and said things that didn’t make sense.

There were treatment road maps, complicated documents that required signatures, beeping machines and many unfamiliar faces. The food trays that the nurse had ordered for us were cold and untouched on the counter. I quietly rocked our girl to sleep as she received blood products for the very first time, desperately trying to wrap my head around how we were so swiftly caught in the undertow of our current situation.

This was our life.

A small, but significant chapter, in the big book of us.

Like a puzzle, our pieces remained scattered. Each piece just as meaningful and necessary as the next, despite how confusing and frustrating they were on their own. Sometimes coming back together, only to be broken apart again and again.

But even apart, we were whole; and when all of the pieces aligned just right, we created a beautiful scene.

Every year on this day I recall our heartache and desperation. How I spent the first night on that cold hospital bed, hopelessly bargaining with the man upstairs to let me take her place.

For parents like me, diagnosis day isn’t something we can escape. It may become less obvious in time, but the effects of that day linger. From how we plan and prepare to how we confront and overcome, and everything in between.

I do not relive painful anniversaries for the sake of sorrow, rather to remind me how far we have come. To remember the mountains we moved when climbing them wasn’t an option. To pay homage to moments that changed our course; acknowledging that we absolutely can handle hard things in life.