In a few days Josh will turn four years old, a celebration that fills me with joy. As I prepare for his birthday party tomorrow I can’t help but look back at the pictures of the past four years. Josh, who wanted to see the pictures too, quickly joined me on my lap as we looked back through the years. We can’t look back though without seeing pictures of him in the hospital, tubes and machines attached to him. I tried to make it light, saying it was the day he was born and that all babies are born in the hospital, but his face said that he was upset so I asked if he was okay and he said ‘no’. I quickly moved past the hospital pictures and moved in the happier times after we had taken him home. The picture above is when he was 6 weeks old. I showed him the picture and said ‘see, that’s baby Joshua and Mummy’, he looked up at me, then back at the picture with an describable look on his face and said ‘bad baby, baby bad’. My heart fell, how could he see this and think that this baby was bad. Then I remembered what one of the specialists told me before his second surgery, that often kids who have ongoing health issues, or repeat surgeries, think that they are ‘bad’ and are being ‘punished’. I was shocked when she told me this, I had no idea that a child would think this way, though after thought it made sense to me coming from a child’s perspective. I did my best to combat those feelings, telling him before each and every procedure and surgery that he was a ‘good boy’ and how much we love him. Tonight, hearing those words coming from my his little mouth I could have cried. Now that he is finding his voice I am learning how deeply this illness and the path he’s been on to get healthy have left more than the numerous scars. He sees something as beautiful as this picture and he sees a ‘bad boy’. My heart aches with this knowledge and I am left wondering how to change his thinking of it? How do I reassure him? How do I make him see that he’s wrong?
Is it possible that he is only now able to verbalize his feelings and so he’s only now working out his past? Does he really believe he is bad? As a mother, how do I change this way of thinking? Do I never show him those pictures again, or do I continue to show them to him and talk to him about it? I have no answers, just questions. I am on new and shaky ground here and I don’t want to lose footing.