Lessons from the “boot”

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Five weeks ago, I had surgery to repair a torn peroneal tendon and to fix a long-standing stress fracture in my left metatarsal. Running and my unique physiology have contributed to the damage, and I had similar (though less significant) surgery five years ago on the right tendon. It’s been, and continues to be, a longer road to recovery than I anticipated, and that I remembered from the former surgery. It’s got me thinking about what it means to need help, and to have to rely upon others for assistance, and to be patient as I wait for my body to heal.

I missed one week of school for the surgery, and was ordered to two weeks of no weight-bearing. Upon my return to school, I was on crutches, and the kindness of one of the school principals (a former fellow in surgery to the ankle) granted me a scooter, with which I “rode” around the hallways and my classroom. My students, 7th graders nearing the end of the school year, were remarkably helpful, patient, and kind as I returned to teaching.  They picked up some of the pieces, helping me move computers around the room, writing the homework on the board, and transcribing my daily writing prompts that guide our class. I was grateful for their help, but also realized that it was good for them to have some level of responsibility, to take on some of the work that keeps our class moving forward.

My own children have also been forced to pick up some of the pieces. My kids are eight, and they rely much upon me to fetch things for them, cook, make lunches, help get them ready for bed, among the many tasks that fall to moms. I enjoy taking care of them, but because EE has also been out of town this week, I’ve had to ask Monkey Man and Gorilla Girl to take on some of the work of making lunches, getting clothes ready for school, and cleaning up the kitchen. Gorilla Girl has done the lion’s share of this “helping” and she seems genuinely proud of what she is able to do independently. The other side of the story is Monkey Man’s lament, “I can’t wait for you to be normal again, Mommy.” This balance between doing for one-self, and having done for one is tricky; for eight year olds, it might be confusing. In they eyes of a child, the parent is the care giver, the one who is supposed to be strong and protective, so a wounded parent must be frightening at worst, and disorienting at least. I wonder, too, how much I was doing as an eight-year old.  Are my children more catered to than I was, than earlier generations were? Is my incapacity, even though temporary,  a blessing in disguise, one that allows them to stretch themselves a bit more independently?

Despite the blessings that the “boot” has provided, and the offers of help from friends and family who have borne the brunt of taking care of me, my kids, and our house move over the past couple of weeks, I do still feel the desire to jump back into action, to take care of all the things that are normally so easily accomplished.  However, I will have to exercise patience and humble myself before the will of my body as it heals and returns me to full mobility.

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One Response to Lessons from the “boot”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I remember when I was nine years old and my mom was out of commission after some surgery; although I was the second of four daughters, I was the one she selected to be in charge of doing the laundry. As I can clearly remember that time in my life, I guess it was an important part of my becoming more responsible, although I have wondered numerous times over the decades (moreso then than now) why she selected me and not my older sister to take on this task. (I don’t recall my sister having been given any extra work at the time!)

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