“Am I going to be okay, Mom?” My daughter asked quietly as she lie on an ER gurney. It was midnight, and we had been there for hours. She’d had bloodwork, IV meds, and IV fluids. The doctors had finally found the source of infection and were treating it.
There was never a doubt in my mind that she’d be okay. I knew that she’d be okay. What I didn’t know was this: she had no idea whether she’d be okay.
After I explained to her that “yes, you’ll be just fine, baby girl,” her words lingered as my heart splintered thinking about how scared she must’ve been. When was the last time I wasn’t sure if *I* would be okay? I couldn’t recall one. It sounded terrifying.
I’ve gotten so used to answering my kids’ questions that I can do so while half asleep. Do fish drink water, Mom? Can you tell me what’s in that edible slime recipe? What kind of flower is that? Did you have email in the olden days, Mom? I can spit out answers to these questions in milliseconds, whether based in fact or in fiction that I make up on the fly. The Q & A routine is so ingrained in my daily life that I never really stopped to think about why my kids were asking so many questions.
I never really stopped to think about how many new things they were experiencing every single day. I never really stopped to think about the fact that my kids, unlike adults, have very few life experiences under their belts. Instead, each day is a blank slate for them to fill with brand-new experiences and knowledge.
But, since that night in the ER, I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to be a kid again and to learn new things—huge chunks of truth and information—every day. It seems . . . overwhelming, exhilarating, and somewhat scary.
As a result, I’m trying to be more patient with my kids when they ask me questions. Admittedly, that is a challenge when day-to-day life is so hectic; there’s always a toddler to console, dishes to do, and meals to fix. I don’t always have the time or patience needed to thoughtfully answer the questions at hand. Just yesterday, I was explaining to my daughter, in an exasperated tone, that her new puppy was just nipping at her in a playful way. She looked disappointed as she explained that “I didn’t know, Mom. I’ve never had a dog before.” She was right. She had not, and I was expecting her to know more than she did.
I know my daughter will be okay, and she knows it, too. And thanks to her question in the ER that night, I’ve become more conscious about the fact that she and her sisters are experiencing so many firsts every day, too. While I can’t create more hours in the day for answering questions, I can try to be a little more empathetic when they ask the 387th question of the day. I can remember that they’re always learning. And as it turns out, I am, too.