In walking through the thick murk of life “after” my daughter’s accident when she lost part of each finger on her left hand, I have been thinking and reading a lot about pity. From the free online dictionary:
1. Sympathy and sorrow aroused by the misfortune or suffering of another.
I appreciate real sympathy–it’s one of the things that has gotten us through this. But I’ve seen pity on the faces of strangers, and it’s of a different shade than mere sympathy. Waiting in the surgeon’s office for a check-up, others sit silently and smile those lopsided smiles full of benevolence, and selfish relief. I imagine even beloved friends might feel it for us right now, along with gratitude that it didn’t happen to their kids. (I bet I’d feel the same way: sympathy, compassion, and glad it wasn’t us. This is human!) But very soon after realizing how the change in my daughter’s hand might change our lives, I had a visceral wave of wanting absolutely no pity. Not for her, not for me, not for us.
Today I was reminded of the rightness of my reaction.
For the first time since her accident, we went to the playground at the Antioch School where she will begin nursery school in September. The last time we were there, she had climbed, fearless as is her wont, to the top of the blue jungle gym. (I blogged about that moment here.) Today, she climbed up, not to the top, but just about. She slipped a couple of times, but wasn’t hurt, and was unfazed. As she climbed, I coached a bit more than I would like, and more than I did last time, reminding her to pay attention to her feet, and feel her body. (This is something I hope to instill in her throughout her life, wanting, for the eventual woman she will be: root-like grounding, and trusting of the gut, that intuition that flows without effort from our bodies, in which dwell our souls.) Today, she was so proud of what she could do. As I witnessed her work, I was aware of my own body quieting down, being exquisitely present, breathing through my own fear of her falling or getting hurt. (Her surgeon seems petrified at the thought of her re-injuring her hand. I am too. But dammit, I wanted her to climb!) When she reached her near-top destination, I praised her but showed no surprise. For, some little shard in me knew she could do this.
She asked about the monkey bars. This question of monkey bars has been clunking around in me since the accident. How will her hands grasp and support her weight when she’s sustaining her entire body? Will she ever be able to cross those bars? Today I told her that when she’s bigger, she will be able to hold herself up and cross them. She wanted to try. I held her up; she grabbed hold of a rung with both hands. I told her I could hold on or let go. She wanted me to let go. I was below her, ready to catch.
I let go.
She held on.
She didn’t fall.
She dropped gracefully after a moment of dangle, and I was there, surrounding her with my arms. “You did it!” I said.
Of course she did it. I knew she could, but seeing was another thing.
I believe this strong, amazing child (who the hell can display such bias, if not her mother?) needs no pity. She may need some other things. She needs a world that allows for (and celebrates) all the ways we do what we do. I know she will teach me plenty along the way.
I know how lucky I am that she’s here with me now.