I had surgery last week, my first surgery ever since apparently wisdom teeth don’t actually count.
I thought I knew what to expect, had asked all the questions, googled all the things, dotted i’s and crossed t’s and was ready.
Well, nope, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Not only has the recovery been more complex — I’m one week and one day out and still feeling lousy — I didn’t anticipate AT ALL the impact on my kids.
Now don’t get me wrong, I prepared. I prepared by stocking up on groceries, arranging rides to and from school while I can’t drive, lining up the grandparents to stay overnight while I was in the hospital, etc. The logistics. There’s a lot of logistics for single parents. But I in no way anticipated that they’d be worried about me or not know how to help or feel so displaced shuttling around with family and the parents of their friends. I didn’t prepare for their emotional needs.
At one point, several days after, Finn admitted to having wondered what would happen to them if something happened to me in surgery and I didn’t make it. Oh honey, I said. I had no idea he would think about that. My parents had various surgeries and hospitalizations when I was teenager and I didn’t think that way. But when you’ve already lost one parent, the fear of losing your one remaining parent is much more real and scary. Since surgeries are so routine these days I never considered this possibility myself, actually, and felt awful that he was worried about this and didn’t/couldn’t talk to me about it so I could help answer his questions and calm his fears. Sadly, that’s something a kid who’s already lost one parent has to worry about — what happens to me when something happens to the only parent I have?
So one piece of advice — to myself should I ever need to have surgery again — and to any other single parent out there who’s kids might be worried about them having surgery: Talk openly and honestly to your kids about your surgery. Because my procedure was … ahem … female-related, my teenage sons didn’t want to know anything more than that. I didn’t push the issue but I think knowledge is empowering so maybe if they better understood the what and the why and been simply asked how do you feel about mom having surgery it could have eased their fears, fears of the unknown by getting what is known out in the open.