Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.
Here’s a perfect moment from my week. I hope you’ll share yours, too.
To get to this week’s perfect moment, you must first understand the decidedly IMperfect moments that preceded it.
In the early summer, 9 year-old Grace noticed a lump on her neck and showed it to her mom. Lynne, not too worried, arranged for a physician to check it out. At the appointment the doctor casually uttered the words “blood draw,” which set off a terrible, horrible, no-good chain of events. Lynne saw it begin when Grace’s eyes went scared-wild, but was powerless to stop what had been set in motion.
She’d had trouble getting the kids out the door for the 8:30 am appointment. Knowing the doctor visit would be short, Lynne had sacrificed breakfast for promptness, hoping that the hunger the kids would feel would teach them not to dally next time. And Lynne had violated the most basic rules of parenting: never do anything important when kids are (a) hungry (b) sleepy (c) cranky (d) any combination.
Upon hearing those words uttered by the doctor, Grace began to yell and scream her protest, thus alerting several dozen people in various parts of the clinic of her displeasure. Then Grace’s body went wild, limbs swinging in both offense and defense, letting no one near. Lynne tried to gather and hold Grace tightly to quell the anxiety that was bursting from its fragile borders. And because it was time to head to the lab area, Lynne then dragged Grace, who was literally digging in her heels, out of the exam room.
Grace convinced her mother — loudly — to release her grip, that she was FINE. When Lynne did, Grace bolted out the front door toward parking lot traffic. Lynne sprung out of the chair like a tightly wound coil, cleared the automatic doors and tackled Grace before she got to the car lane, then carried her back inside, still kicking and screaming. Grace scratched, bit, and kicked Lynne on the return trip. The commotion continued with these high-volume words that tore Lynne’s pounding heart: “I hate you! You’re not my mom! You’re the worst mom ever! I HATE YOU, MOM!!”
Everyone in the building had stopped what they were doing to witness this spectacular morning drama.
Grace’s flip-flops sliced through the air, narrowly missing an elderly man in one direction and a nurse in another. Grace’s younger brother, Jack, retrieved them, wanting to help in some way. After picking up the debris he, too, tried to get Grace to calm down. Then she turned on him, calling him a naughty word that Lynne had not thought to tell her was reserved for other females, not for brothers.
Lynne endured 10 more minutes of bites and scratches, watching welts appear on her shoulders and arms, while the lab attempted to track down a male nurse. Jack staved off his own hunger by giving his mom pointers on how a ninja holds a prisoner. Lynne noticed that her body was both rigid on adrenaline AND somewhat pliant, as she fought the urge to escalate the situation with her own anger and hopelessness and embarrassment and frustration. It was a struggle to keep breathing when her world was crumbling from the assault.
A male nurse finally showed up in the waiting area and carried Grace to a lab room. Grace slapped him repeatedly in the face and kicked him in the knees until he could get her in a humane and proper hold. Once in the room she kicked over display racks. Pamphlets on “How to Check your Testicles” and “So you Want to Go on the Pill” scattered everywhere. It took three people and 30 more seconds to pin Grace down and draw a teeny vial of blood from the feral child.
Crisis subsiding, mother and children headed to the x-ray waiting area, the fight gone from Grace. Lynne was a bundle of jello, barely able to keep herself together. Grace wanted to make up, desperately needing her mother’s absolution, and Lynne was not able to give it. Instead, Lynne turned and stared at a wall and began sobbing silently, tears from deep in her gut rolling down her cheeks.
A woman came by, did an uncertain double-take, and said, “Can I help you with anything?” “No, thank you,” Lynne choked. “Can I just give you a hug?” Lynne stood, said yes and collapsed into the woman, overwhelmed by her presence and kindness. The woman offered to fetch breakfast. Lynne, having no protest left in her, accepted and handed her $20. The woman said she’d be back from McDonald’s soon with breakfast sandwiches and orange juice.
Another lady, this one elderly, walked by and murmured, “I’ll be praying for you.”
Lynne was touched by their sweetness, but sobs threatened to wrack her anew as she realized she was the object of pity because she couldn’t control her child.
Grace got x-rayed without incident, and the kind lady arrived with breakfast and change and a card with her phone number on it. She blessed Lynne and told her, sympathetically, that she’d been added to her church’s prayer chain.
Somehow Lynne got the kids home. In the garage, in the car alone, she cried from a bottomless well of despair. Tomorrow her biceps would hurt from wrangling a 60 pound girl. And no matter how hot the day, she vowed to never go sleeveless to the doctor again.
It was The Worst Day of her parenting life and Lynne had survived. But she didn’t feel very victorious.
In the late fall, the unknown mass was about to be excised. The lead-up to Grace’s surgery had been hard on the whole family — five months was a long time for a girl to sit with such anxiety. The fear would erupt periodically and cost Grace hours in time-outs. People close to the girl were on pins and needles about how she would handle the day of the surgery. Lynne spent a lot of time preparing Grace for what she could expect, and they had many conversations as Grace processed the emotions that arose.
“Good morning, Mommy!” The first thing Lynne saw that morning was Grace smiling ear to ear. So far, so good, she thought, knowing things could go sour without warning.
But Grace handled not being allowed to have food or even water all morning with, well, Grace. She got into the car, clutching her teddy bear, of her own accord. She chatted nervously about everything but surgery during the drive to the hospital. She held up well through registration and pre-op, biting her lower lip as a way to manage her anxiety. She swallowed the Versed with no cajoling. She bonded with Nurse Sue and compliantly got into a little red wagon to be wheeled into surgery. She cried only when the wagon got to the boundary that Lynne could not cross. Lynne put on a brave face until the wagon was out of sight, and then burst into tears.
Ninety minutes later, mother and daughter were reunited in post-op. Grace, coming out of anesthesia, inquired if she was in Her Room yet. She’d created a scenario in her mind in which she had a beautiful room of her own filled with flowers and gifts and balloons and stuffed animals from thousands of adoring well-wishers.
Soon she WAS in Her Room and soon the anesthesia left her body. Grace enjoyed playing with the switches that controlled the bed, the TV, the lights, the shades, and the nurses. She held court with her family of well-wishers and she glowed as her mom read Twitter and Facebook messages to her.
Grace and Lynne stayed the night and went home the next day, bonded in a new way. Grace had discovered she could control the hardest-of-all to control — herself. And a new and deep respect for Grace had blossomed in Lynne’s heart.
Both had vanquished demons, and for a moment it was perfect.
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