Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes on how we seek advice and who we should be following and learning from.
On a fairly regular basis I am asked for advice. I don’t know why because my writing shows very clearly that I am a mess.
Stories? I have a few…Life advice? Not so much. But I do have a bit of a guide. Someone whose daily wisdoms help me in almost everything I do.
He is the person who has taught me the most in this life. There’s so much I have learned from him, so much advice he’s given me, so many things I’ve observed in the way he carries out his life.
So I’ll tell you about him. Because when we take advice we need to know it is born from someone who has lived in a way that makes them worthy of giving life advice. It’s true I wouldn’t take advice from just anyone. So I figured as well as sharing his wisdom, I’d tell his story.
If it were me telling his story I would say that it all began with searing pain but he would say differently.
He would say I wished him and wished him and then he was here.
I would say that I shit on the floor and screamed I NEED A FUCKING EPIDURAL and then he was here.
In any case, I have glossed over nine harrowing months – but that’s for brevity’s sake.
Let’s say his birth begins his story.
I held him in my arms so briefly and felt ever so shocked. Shocked at birth and that my child who I had indeed wished for, for many years, was finally here.
And then he was taken from me.
And they said he needed help to breathe. And I just thought – OK it’s because he’s a bit early. It will be fine. “A fast delivery” too.
And I was fairly focused on my decimated vagina anyway so I thought, OK let’s get things sorted and then I’ll have him in my arms again.
But already, even then, even after only holding him for a second – my arms felt empty without him.
Eventually he was given back and there were mutterings that it was just the delivery that had caused him to be “out of breath”.
He made a soft snoring sound on my chest – even though he was awake.
We went home a few days later to begin our lives together.
We set up camp in the lounge, the warmest room in our little rental – and we just snuggled and rejoiced and it was overwhelming but it was wonderful.
And then it wasn’t.
Suddenly, we had a child who couldn’t breathe properly.
And they, all the people so much smarter than us, so intimidating in their intellect but at least warm and kind, named him a condition and they said he would need surgery and then everything happened all at once.
And we were suddenly standing in the room that they put you in before they take your baby away and I wanted to scream and I wanted to say please please he’s so special he’s my baby please he’s everything he’s my whole world please…
And instead I just stood. Staring at the roof as I held him trying to blink back tears because I didn’t want him to see how scared I was. My husband took him from me and I didn’t want to let him go.
I kissed him and said I love you I love you I love you and as he went through the door with my husband I was bereft.
It was one of the worst moments of my life.
And then he came through. And we made bargains to all kinds of Gods we said – what’s that one with the tambourine? We will totally shave our heads for him if you save him.
We said we’d convert. We hoped Satan liked our offerings of heavy metal music and we hedged our bets by trying not to say Jesus Christ or Christ Almighty and wondered if For God’s Sake was blasphemous or not.
And we felt helpless. Almost incapacitated when slowly but surely the gasping returned and our baby rasped and shuddered trying to breathe.
And he had more surgery. And more procedures.
But that’s just part of the story. The other part of the story is this…
The little boy was named Eddie and whenever we went into the hospital he would smile and tuck his head into my arm in a game of peek a boo with the ladies at the front desk. His specialists would talk about all these important things that needed to be done to him and he would sit in their lap and look up at them and they would smile and stop talking and look down at him and say – you’re very distracting Little Eddie!
And the nurses would smile and say “Back again Eddie!” And he would smile at them and hold a hand out to their cheeks.
And everyone always said – he’s always got a smile.
No matter how many times he was poked and prodded he never lost trust in the people who were trying to make him better. His spirit was stronger than any adversity he was facing.
And slowly the story stopped being that Eddie has a condition and it started to be that Eddie is a delight. He smiles all the time. And his giggle is infectious. And he always wants cuddles from anyone around. And he’s a little cheeky firecracker who you would hear from the other end of the ward chuckling away.
And we cried a lot. We said many times this isn’t fair. And it wasn’t fair. Life isn’t fair.
But Eddie showed us that life can also be beautiful. In amongst the shitty stuff there are smiles and giggles and snuggles and funny jokes and silly dancing.
Eddie has taught me that connection matters more than anything else. That resilience doesn’t mean shutting down or closing yourself off to the world. Being human, having thin skin, being breakable, being fragile – that doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong. It makes you able to make a difference in the world.
So that is how I came to trust Eddie over any mentor or advisor or adult who knows “lots of stuff”. Eddie has been through more in his five years on this planet than many have. And he has come out of it with lessons. They’re not dissimilar to any other child actually. Yet we rarely recognise the immense wisdom of children.
We have a habit of not listening to children because we are convinced we know more than them. We scoff on social media when someone shares something their child says – people have become so removed from children, so arrogant, that they don’t see they have so much to learn from them.
We let our audacity, our close-mindedness, stand in the way of learning from children.
Children are, and should be, our first teachers. They should be listened to, heard, seen.
If you’ve ever felt like the future looks bleak, talk to a child. They don’t have the benefit that adults do of closing their minds and ignoring the future. Theirs is a world ready to lead. We need to listen – and then follow.
God knows, they do better than so many of our leaders. What can we lose by following children? We’ve lost so much already.
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