Wednesday, January 06, 2010

An Overlooked Heart

I think it is fair to say that as a general rule, anyone who has met my Sadie doesn't easily forget her. Sometimes it is positive, and sometimes it isn't. Either way, she is compelling and intriguing, I think. Smart, crazy, tough, athletic, artistic, creative, curious, motivated, impulsive. Did I say crazy? But, the one thing that often goes unnoticed is her sensitivity. Even I, as her mother, often believe she is tougher than the reality of what is churning in her little heart.

Two recent events have opened my eyes to something I often overlook in my second child.

The first happened on New Year's Eve. Actually the ball start rolling a day earlier at swim practice; the ball became a destructive force the day after. This is the time of year when her swim coach sits down with each of the kids to assess their progress and revise goals for the year. Sadie's great love is swimming. She discovered it this summer and hasn't stopped since. She begs for more and more and now practices three afternoons a week. Sadie is a good swimmer with the potential to be a great swimmer. Her coach believes that her body was made for swimming the butterfly and in time the possibilities are there. Right now, however, is another story. Is she at the top of her age division? Hardly. But, her perception is that she is a much faster swimmer than reality. Her coach, understandably, wants to start bridging the gap between what goes on at practice with what goes on at meets. He wants the kids to be more aware of their times in each event and concentrate on what their bodies are doing in the water to improve their times. Therefore, he encouraged Sadie to ask me to show her her times.

I was not receptive to this idea. She is 8. This should all be about fun, right? I tell the kids when they have dropped or gained time, but they are not given information on their standings in comparison to others or how close they are to their first standard, which is called a "B" time. I don't want them to have that pressure, yet. I never viewed it as a matter of incentive, really, and certainly never thought through her possible reaction to this full disclosure. Yet, I still questioned the coach about this, and he assured me she was ready. It would be a great motivator for Sadie, who is a very "tough kid."

Forward to New Year's Eve. Right after lunch Sadie came to me and asked me to show her her times. They are all on the computer so we sat down on the bed and I began. "Here is your time." I said. "And what is the B time?" Sadie responded. "Ummm, well, here." I said. Her eyes opened wide. "What about my other events?" I showed her each of the comparisons. Her face scrunched up, the tears welled up in her eyes and she shouted, "I am horrible at swimming. I am never going to swim again!" She flung herself on the bed. Whoa - I was not expecting this severe reaction at all. Where was my tough Sadie, the one who always let things roll off her back? I spent the next 4+ hours dealing with wailing, frustration, and as much depression as an 8 year old can muster. I was pretty ticked with her coach for pushing this issue. I used every bit of reasoning and information I had. Yet, nothing changed the utter devastation that showed on her face, mirroring what her heart was feeling.

Finally, in the car outside of the restaurant where we were to meet 20 other people for dinner, I said, "Sadie, why did you choose to swim?" Her response, "Because I love it and I love how I feel strong in the water." "Well, that hasn't changed because of your times. That is all I am going to say about it. You need to decide what you want to do and let me know." I answered. About halfway through dinner, Sadie came over to me and said, "Mom, I need to tell you something. I have decided I am still going to swim." I said, "Ok. Great." Relief.

As a side note, at the next practice, Sadie was more focused and determined. Maybe her coach knew something after all. Sorry, Coach Rob. Good thing I couldn't find your cell number on New Year's Eve.

The second incident happened yesterday. Sadie has never stayed dry at night. Ever. Every year at the pediatrician's office we ask about this. The answer is always, "We're not worried; she will grow out of it." We have always believed that her inability to stay dry is because Sadie is an incredibly deep sleeper. Sadie sleeps like the dead. You cannot wake her up. We have offered up every incentive for a dry night, including a much coveted American Girl doll. We have also doled out some verbal warnings and minor discipline. We have tried all types of devices to help her, including a special alarm that goes off when it detects wetness. The buzz is supposed to train your brain to recognize the signal it is receiving from your body. Unfortunately, Sadie just sleeps through the alarm. We tried having her sleep in our room so that I could get to her by the time the alarm buzzed. The result was that alarm went off, I walked a still sleeping Sadie to the bathroom, while she peed on the floor the entire way. She never woke up.

At her last check-up, I firmly stated that I didn't feel comfortable "waiting for her to grow out of it" anymore. At 8 years-old, she is embarrassed by this fact, going to great lengths to hide it. Sleepovers are becoming more frequent and she is terrified that someone will make fun of her. Therefore, the doctor made us an appointment with an urologist. We had this appointment yesterday.

It didn't take long for the doctor to strongly believe that Sadie has some "bladder malfunction." One reason is that even after urinating, she still had 4-5 oz of urine in her bladder. Our other answers to his questions continued to confirm that there are some physical problems, completely out of her control. In addition, the stress of not being able to control her bladder has probably created another set of problems. Our next step is a series of tests this coming Thursday. He went through some details of what this would mean to Sadie and said that it shouldn't hurt, despite his use of the word, "catheter". Sadie seemed to be taking it all in stride. In fact, she even announced that she was "happy" because she would be able to get rid of the pull-ups. We left the appointment and I dropped her off at school without another thought. What a tough girl, right?

When I arrived at school to pick up the kids, I immediately recognized that something was not right with Sadie. Anguish, fear and a bit of panic was on her face. Evidently, her mind had been fixated on these tests. Mentally, she had worked herself into a paranoid frenzy. She was starting to break down in tears so we quickly walked to the car. When we got home, she ran to my room, and began to cry. She refused to talk to me about it and after about 20 minutes fell asleep. I know that the emotional trauma of the "unknown test" had wiped her out physically. Even when she woke up, she continued to cry and refuse to talk to me about it, claiming she was too embarrassed. Her only real answer to me was that she was not going to have the tests done. With enough coaxing, a discussion of my own encounters with medical tests and then a girls' trip to Starbucks after dinner, she opened up about her fears which we addressed. She felt relief and more at peace with Thursday.

My tough Sadie, is really not that tough at all. I make that statement not using a haughty, bullying sort of tone. I make that statement with enlightenment and understanding. I have often dismissed her heart because she is so very tough physically and seemed to let the difficulties of life bounce around her exterior, not penetrating her skin. Instead, she internalizes her deepest emotions and fears, squashing them deep down to fester and worry her. When younger, Sadie could be outlandish in her communications. Always to the extreme ends of the spectrum - crazy exuberance to the most horrific tantrums and fits. In my desire to teach her moderation and appropriateness, I am sure I magnified to these innate inclinations in her.

I also learned that Sadie has a difficult time talking about matters of the heart. She often uses the word "embarrassing." It is natural to me that she should view me as the one person on this earth that she can talk to about anything without shame. Rather, it appears I might be the most difficult one. I spent a large amount of our time at Starbucks and in the car ride affirming my role as her confidant. Her response and new-found willingness melted my heart.

Although the swimming incident and this doctor visit were two very trying and emotional situations to handle, I thank God for allowing me this insight into my child. I can build the foundation for our communication now so hopefully, the teenage years will have something from which to work. I will no longer overlook her tough, yet sensitive little heart.

I love you, Sadie. With all of my heart, I love you.

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