The way some kids talk can be pretty cute. The slight lisp they have as they're getting to learn pronunciation can lead to some hysterical and downright adorable figures of speech. And with a child who can only exhale in complete sentences that means hours of entertainment.
Unless she's almost five. That's when you start to wonder if your daughter has a speeth imfediment.
Setting aside the irony of taking a non-stop talker to a speech therapist, we snuck Cheeky out of school a few weeks back to get a professional opinion. Mere moments after we arrived, they peaked down her throat and nearly recoiled in shock. "We'd love to help, but kids with tonsils the size of coconuts are hard to retrain."
Sure enough, one glance down Cheeky's throat (a challenge without proper hazmat protection) revealed the Pillars of Hercules in the back of her throat. It was a miracle air molecules could travel between them without lining up in single file. Suddenly the breathing that sounded like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet and the night of tossing and turning made much more sense. It was one of those head-smacking moments when you question your parenting skills. After all, it's only oxygen to your child's brain...no biggy.
It wasn't a tough call to make. Those fists in the back of her throat had to go.
But how to tell her....
This is the true art of parenting. The tactical use of misdirection. Creative emphasis. Deception. Illusion.
In other words, how do we turn a tonsillectomy into an adventure. Woo hoo! Surgery!
I'm sure every parent is hyper-conscious of flat-out lying to out kids. We want an honest relationship with them, and it's important to be as straight and clear as possible with them so they learn, grow, and trust you. On the other hand, that doesn't mean that every fact in a given scenario needs be explored. My solution to this, as always, is to speak in parentheses. For example:
"The doctor is going to make your throat feel much better (after ripping glands from inside your nose.)"
"You'll blow into a mask like an astronaut (full of a dissociative hallucinogen also used as an oxidizer in rocketry and motor racing) until a balloon blows up."
"Afterwards we can play games (if you're not in too much excruciating pain) and eat ice cream (which will be laced with medicine you're too stubborn to take yourself)"
This works wonders in the days leading up to it. As we were wincing our way out of bed at 6 AM for unnecessarily early appointment, Cheeky bounced right up and was ready to go. She flirted with doctors, cheerily chirped about the procedure (what she knew about it, at least) and rode down the hallway to the surgery room in a plastic red car.
I felt that pang deep down in my gut. The one that resonates with equal parts pride in the bravery of your child, and guilt over the innocence that was about to be ripped away.
Oodgie and I were second-guessing our strategy in the waiting room. Did we give her enough credit? Did we tell her enough? Was our strategy cruel? Would this be the start of years of therapy? Or would she wake up from her anesthesia, blood dripping from her mouth like she'd just slaughtered a zebra, and resume the incessant chatter that has become the soundtrack of our lives without skipping a beat?
We're only a few hours into it, but it's still difficult to say. Cheeky was surely NOT happy when she came to, her throat apparently throbbing like it was caught in a bear trap. There were heartbreaking moments when her composure would break into intense sadness and (I presumed) mystification at why she was suffering. But just as often she'd perk up with some semblance of the old Cheeky, usually raspily chuckling at one of her farts (which, I might add, seem to have electromagnetic properties...more on that later) or holding our hands as we rewatched Sleeping Beauty for the gazillionth time.
It's hard to walk your child into misery, even if you know it's for the best. And you have to hope that as the shock and pain fades their trust and faith in your will be restored, provided that your decisions are for the best.
And most important of all--and I cannot over-emphasize this enough--you MUST use such opportunities to justify copious amounts of ice cream in the house. Because if there's anything that doesn't ease suffering--both hers and mine--it's that. Now pass me the spoon again...it's melting.