After 14 years of avoiding them, we’ve now entered the wonderfully terrible world of concussions. During a nordic ski race our daughter had a crash and had her proverbial “bell rung”. Concussion awareness is a big deal these days (see the NFL lawsuit and the new NHL protocol for examples in the pro sport world), and I’m grateful that the learning is yielding some positive steps for recovery. This is a far cry from when I was a kid and literally used smelling salts and a swig of water to get back on the ice or on the field of play.
Today, through the Return to Learn protocol, we have a structured step by step plan to follow. Once this has been achieved the Return to Sport guidelines will be followed. Bookmark these sites because they’re excellent. While I hope you never have to use them, they’ll be there should you or someone you know, need them.
While following these steps we noticed there is precious little to do for the modern tween or teen. No screens? Heavens above. After a couple of boring days we stumbled on the winning concept – audiobooks. Thanks to the good folks at the public library and our trusty internet connection, entertainment that is free of cognitive challenge is readily available. Add in a comfy couch by a window, a warm blanket and a pair of sunglasses and you’ve got yourself a decent recovery activity with some quality literature.
This is classic stuff. When kids get hurt they let you know, right away. Usually with volume. As they get older and we as parents get wiser, we wait a little bit to ensure the ailment is legit otherwise we’d be rushing off to the doctor every half hour. When the complaining has lasted long enough and is loud enough I’ll make the appointment and off we go. Inevitably, we’ll get to the doctor’s office and everything that was wrong has been magically fixed. This puts me in the wonderful position of looking like an overly stressed, suffocating hypochondriac who twitches at the sight of a runny nose. So it was, at a recent appointment that when our kindly doctor did ask why my son was seeing him, my boy turned to me and asked “Why did you bring me here?”. Sigh.
Ahhhhh kids, winter weather and clothing. My wise friend (who said he’d heard it from someone else but I’m crediting him anyway) said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.” And he’s right. I fear it’s a rite of passage for all teens (and soon to be teens) to forgo the down-filled jackets, sheepskin lined mittens and micro fibre wicking toques, and to brave the elements for all they’re worth. I did it. I’ll bet you did it. The only difference now is that we’re the ones nagging because we know we’re the care-givers that have to be there for them to make chicken soup, take days of work and nurse them back to health when the inevitable happens. (And we haven’t even hit the -20’s yet!)
I had a lousy sleep last night. I don’t why. It could have been the howling winds outside, or the financial issues on my mind or the extra glass of wine I had to combat the financial issues, whatever the reason it got me thinking about you and newborn sleeping patterns.
The effort required to parent is enormous. The feeding, changing, walking, anticipating, playing, cleaning, changing again takes so much of our physical, emotional and mental well being that 7:00pm looks like a perfectly reasonable bed time for a grown adult. What makes it even more challenging is that some babies, (our son for example) become nocturnal. How is this possible you ask? Don’t they just adjust to the rhythms and flow of every day life? No my friend. No. You can swaddle them within an inch of their lives, adjust the temperature in their room to the perfect setting, wrap them in the softest blankets made from beluga tears and unicorn hair and still they’ll act like badgers and bats (I learned badgers were nocturnal one night while watching an animal documentary at 3:00 in the morning with a fully awake newborn) just when you need your rest the most.
I have no great words of wisdom here other than this – get as much sleep now as you can. Bank it, because you’re going to be making more withdrawals than you are deposits. That and remember nothing lasts forever, it just feels like it’ll never end when you’re in the moment.
There are a number of milestones as a new parent that will change your life – for the next few days until exhaustion renders you practically useless – that are worth reflecting on. Ask any parent for the exact day their child first walked or said their first word and I’ll bet they won’t remember. They will however remember the feeling associated with that moment. It’s pure joy, unlike anything you’ve experienced previously. Such was the case the first time my son smiled at me. While I don’t remember the date I do remember being in our living room, cradling him and just staring down at this incredible little person all wrapped up in his onesie. His wee chubby face went from a blank expression to this wonderfully robust smile. It started with his mouth as his lips curled up creating a bulge in the fatty mass of his cheeks squeezing his already shut eyes closer together. I was elated! I called out to my wife to share the good news. She was far more practical in her response. I learned right then, which I’ll share with you now, that babies have something called “REAL” smiles and “REFLEX” smiles.
Reflex smiles tend to be shorter and occur randomly, during sleep or fatigue. They’re similar to the jerky arm and leg movements your baby experiences as they test out their new equipment and tend to disappear around 2 months of age. Real smiles occur in response to something, your face or the sound of someone they love and you’ll see this emotion further expressed in their eyes.
As I look at the drawing I created when I first experienced this reflex vs. real scenario I’m momentarily transported back to those days when I could hold my son like a loaf of bread and pass the time just staring down at him. I encourage you in the early days of parenthood to put aside distracting bits of tech and do just that. Scoop your wee lad up, hold him close and sit down on the couch together staring into his perfect little face. If you do get a smile before the clinically proven emotionally specific time that confirms he loves you for you, enjoy it anyways.