Monday, January 9, 2012

countdown to T&A

Serenity on the Washington coast, September 2011

This Thursday is Elan's tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy (T&A).

Just writing that gives me butterflies in the stomach.

What a strange start to the new year it's been so far. Coming home from a wonderful two weeks away has been jarring. I'm actually happy to be home, I love our little house and the amazing community around us, and the weather has been eerily sunny for January. But everyone's had an edge of cranky and tired since we got home, which wasn't helped by a sudden all-night stomach pain and vomiting attack that Mikhail suffered Saturday night after we celebrated my birthday with a movie out and a late-night Indian food feast at home after we got the kids to bed. At least it happened after the celebrations were over, and he's feeling okay now.

Elan doesn't know about his surgery yet. We're telling him tomorrow morning, before his pre-op doctor appointment. Then on Wednesday, we're going to the hospital outpatient center to meet with a "Child Life Specialist" who will supposedly make us all feel more comfortable with the surgery to come. That would be good. I need to feel more comfortable. Elan is such a barometer of my emotional state - I'm worried that he's going to see straight through any nonchalant front I manage to muster and see my own anxiety about the surgery, the recovery, and whether it's going to work and we might all once again know what it is to sleep through the night.

The problem is that I have no idea how to explain this surgery to him. I don't want to make it sound like it's his fault: you're a bad sleeper, so you have to have surgery. (Even though that's kind of the truth.) I don't want to sugar-coat it: you're going to go to the doctor, go to sleep, and when you wake up, eat lots of popsicles. But I don't want to make it sound too scary either: you might be out of school for 10 days or two weeks because your throat will hurt so much. Clearly there's a balance of how much information he needs to have in order to feel that he's been prepared for something, and not scaring the dickens out of him.

I feel like this is a complicated undertaking at this age. At 5, he's become very aware of his own will. (Favorite new phrase: "I decide for me.") How do we prepare him for this surgery so that he won't feel terrified or like we lied to him, without him feeling totally out of control and like he has no say in what happens to his own body, even though this is a decision Mikhail and I have made on his behalf and he doesn't have a say in it? I guess if I knew the answer to that one, I could make a lot of money as a child-whisperer.

Which, given the fit my child threw this morning in the car when I told him he was going to get to play with his friends at the after-school program for an hour and a half after preschool, I am clearly not.

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