Everyone’s Got Something.

I was recently chatting with a friend about how tough it can be as a parent to watch our kids go through the same struggles we did at their age. To my surprise, though, I’m more patient with my kids than I’ve ever been with myself. Now that I have one teenager and one “tween” (okay, I know that’s really a term for marketing people who are trying to sell stuff to 10-year-olds, but you get what I mean), I do my best to explain, as I say in my personally coined phrase, “everyone’s got something.” (Yup, you can use that!).

I remember being about 15 years old, and going to bed what I always assumed was way earlier than any other human my age. Anyone who has known me for more than a few days knows that it’s still the case. It’s a rare night that I’m up later than about 10:00. I know I don’t function well without enough sleep, and I’m okay with that.

But at 15, I know it was something that made me feel different and weird. Thinking that everyone else was staying up later, and I was some freak who required a full eight hours of sleep. Fast-forward just a few years when I was in college. I still needed a good night’s sleep. And while I wasn’t quite ready to embrace it, I could speak up about it. I could go next door in my dorm and ask the girls to turn down their music. I could go home after an afternoon and evening of bar-hopping, while friends would stay out for another bar and hours longer. Shortly after I joined a sorority, we went on a weekend trip to another campus. Most of the girls wanted to stay out late. I was thankful to find two like-minded people who wanted to head back and get some sleep; they ended up being some of my closest friends during my college years.

I tell my kids these stories, with the hopes that they’ll understand that the things that make them feel different, alone and weird now are the very things that I someday hope they can learn to love about themselves because these are the things that make them who they are. And that everyone, no matter how self-assured and cool they seem to be, has something they also feel different and weird about.

Some kids, like me, need a lot of sleep. Some kids are anxious or depressed. Some kids have physical limitations. Some kids are adopted, have two moms, or are coming to realize that they’re gay. Some kids struggle in school. Some struggle to make friends.

The point is that everyone’s got something. Nobody is perfect, in the sense that none of us are without something that makes us feel different or alone. But on the flip side, we are all perfect, because these are things that make us unique and who we are. Let’s help our kids understand that, and to embrace their differences and the differences of others.


To my child’s doctor.

Dear doctor who put my son’s knee back together:

We will always be grateful for your knowledge and surgical skills, and for fixing our son’s torn ACL. We understand that there are few cases like his, because not too many 9-year-olds are unfortunate enough to tear their ACL. We understand that you see a lot of patients for a lot of different things. In fact, we understand a lot more than you think we do.

And after a frustrating and upsetting visit to your office today, we think there are a few things that YOU should understand.

Our son is not just another case for you to add to your study. He is a kid who has now spent about 10 percent of his life dealing with a knee injury that’s usually reserved for professional athletes and grownups.

If you’re going to change your tune and tell us 10 months after a surgery you’ve been telling us all along would take a 9-12 month recovery (and now it might be as long as 18 months), you ought to have some reasons for that. Obviously, we want to keep our kid from re-injuring himself, but it’s our job as parents to manage his expectations. And it’s tough to do that when the expectations change and we’re not notified.

And while I get that you’re really busy, it would make things a lot less frustrating for everyone if all the people who were involved in our son’s rehabilitation were on the same page. When someone tells us today that our son shouldn’t be jumping, when the physical therapist (who, by the way, we switched to at your urging) told him months ago that jumping would be safe, I think you might understand why we’d get annoyed.


When you asked our son if he was listening to you today, I assure you that he was, but he was looking away so you wouldn’t see that he was trying not to cry. And I can also assure you that he’s listening to you all the other times you speak, even when you’re talking to us and assume he doesn’t understand you. He’s a kid, but he’s still in the room, he can hear you, and he knows what you’re saying.

And by the way, when you come into the exam room and ask him the same question every time (“What’s your favorite subject in school?”), you’re not really getting to know him. It’s still Writing, like it’s been every time you’ve asked. Maybe you should make a note of it, and get to know him some other way. Because you don’t really know him at all.

You don’t know that he was given an award for his positive attitude from the gym teacher last year, even though he wasn’t able to participate in gym for most of the school year.

You don’t know that he was given another award at camp this summer, for being one of two kids out of hundreds who were acknowledged for embodying the positive spirit and attitude the camp encourages kids to have. And he won this award while spending the entire summer in a knee brace, not being able to participate in the sports he loves.

You don’t know that he loves basketball, because you continue to assume that he only plays baseball, because that’s how he tore his ACL. He loves basketball so much that he went to as many practices and games for his team last year as he could, even though he was on crutches and couldn’t play. You don’t know that he’s been working for the last 10 months to get strong enough to play basketball this winter.

You don’t know that he has more than one person in his life who has nicknamed him “Smiley,” because he smiles most of the time. Even during this past year.

You don’t know that my son is one tough kid. The day after his ACL surgery, when it hurt too much just to move, he’d ask us to put the theme from “Rocky” on, and that would be enough to motivate him to do the bending exercises you told him he’d need to do to get stronger. You don’t know that sometimes he cries because frankly, this is just all too much for a 10-year old.

You don’t know that he left your office today upset, but with more determination than ever to keep working hard.

My son is more than his knee. I hope you’ll try to remember that.


14 Years Later.

When my kids were younger, I remember asking someone how I would ever talk to them about 9/11. We live in a New Jersey town where lots of people commute to Manhattan; our community lost more than a dozen that day, and we were close enough to see the smoke that rose above Ground Zero. It was a terrifying, world-changing day. I couldn’t imagine telling my kids about this horrible day without frightening them.


Here we are, 14 years later. Matthew, who was a newborn on that day in 2001, is now a high school freshman, and Michael is in 5th grade. They both know about 9/11. They’ve learned about it in school, and we’ve talked about it at home. I’ve realized as they’ve grown that because they didn’t share the collective fear that encompassed us on that day, they would never feel the same as those of us who lived through it. I’m grateful for that.

Even though we were fortunate to have not lost people close to us on 9/11, we have friends with stories of their journeys out of lower Manhattan that day. I was on maternity leave from my job, and watched the events unfold on NBC. I recall yelling upstairs to Dave that “some idiot just flew a plane into the World Trade Center.” But when the second plane hit, we all knew it was something more than that. Our sense of security would never be the same.

As the years have passed and the memories aren’t as fresh, my thoughts of the day are less frightening. But each year, I can still recall the crystal clear, blue September sky that morning. The reporters on TV, who were at an absolute loss for words as to how to explain what was going on. The air that day, which shifted from a crisp early autumn breeze, to a smell that I still can’t describe and have never smelled again, but that I’m sure was from all that was going on just 20 miles away. The sinking feeling in my stomach when I watched the first tower fall live on TV. The relief at realizing that all the people we knew could have been affected were safely away from danger.

I also recall the first anniversary of 9/11, listening to the reading of the names of those who died that day, and crying, as I do each year. I’m still not sure why. And teaching my second semester of a college public speaking course on that first anniversary, suspending my lecture for the day and offering students the opportunity to come to the front of the class and talk about their own experiences of that day a year earlier. Some couldn’t do it. Others did and broke into tears.

I realize now that on some level, 9/11 has become a bond that those of us who lived through it will always share. It seems that many people want to talk about how they experienced the day. I’m no different. I’d think that we’d want to forget the chaos and tragedy that was going on, but it seems that there’s some comfort in talking about what we were doing at each moment.

I’m glad that talking about 9/11 with my kids hasn’t enveloped them with fear, as I thought it might. When Matthew was about 9 or 10, he asked me some questions about 9/11, and we talked about it. He looked at me thoughtfully, and just said, “Wow, sounds like a scary day.”

It was.


What I Learned In Elementary School

As the school year is drawing to an end for my kids, I’ve realized that next year will be my last as an elementary school parent. My older son is entering high school in the fall, and my younger son will be in 5th grade.

I will have spent 10 years as the parent of an elementary school-aged child. That’s a fairly significant amount of time, and I’ve learned a fairly significant number of things. So, I thought I’d pass along my pieces of advice to those of you entering or in the midst of this stage in your parenting:

1. You’ll get used to the smell. I remember the first time I walked into my son’s school. I was overwhelmed by, of all things, the smell. Not a bad smell — just that school smell.

2. Ask your child questions. And by questions, I don’t mean, “How was your day?” or “What did you do in school today?,” which isn’t going to get you much information. Ask them questions that will give your child the chance to talk. I have one “talker,” which means I find out a lot of what’s going on inside and outside the classroom. The other kid — not so much. But what I discovered is that if I asked him easy questions like, “Who did you sit next to at lunch?” or “What book did your teacher read to you today?,” it would give me more information, and I could offer follow-up questions.

3. Trust the school. I’m not saying that they don’t make mistakes, because of course, we all do. But I think if you go into your child’s school experience with the attitude that nobody else can take care of your child, you’re destined to fail. Let’s face it — teachers don’t make a ton of money; anyone who chooses this career does it because they love children. They want what’s best for your child, just like you.

4. Let your child fail sometimes. A few years ago, I was working at home, and found that Matthew had left his completed homework on the kitchen table. Since I was home, I could have brought it in, but I didn’t, even though I knew he might be upset when he realized he didn’t have it. Instead, I e-mailed the teacher and let her know that he’d done it, but forgotten it, and that I didn’t plan to bring it in for him. There are lots of things your child can learn if you don’t rescue them every time — for Matthew, it was that the earth wouldn’t fly off its axis if he made a mistake. Other children might need to learn how to be more responsible or organized. Either way, if you bail them out every time, they’ll learn that they don’t have to be independent.

5. But, remember that they’re still kids. And sometimes, it’s okay to bring a forgotten lunch or musical instrument to school.

6. It’s their homework. Not yours. I remember Matthew working on a book report project in 4th grade. He had to create a cereal box that represented the character and the book. It was a cool assignment, but watching him do it nearly put me over the edge. I REALLY wanted to get my scrapbook paper and some stencils and make the whole thing look way prettier than a 9-year-old could. But I kept telling myself that it looked completely 4th grade appropriate, and as long as he could handle the project himself, I needed to back off. Same goes for nightly homework. Help your child if they ask for it, but not if they don’t.

7. Homework shouldn’t make them cry. I can’t remember which of my child’s teachers told the parents this at back-to-school night, but it’s a rule we’ve always followed. If homework is so frustrating that your kiddo is crying, first take a break and try to come back to it. If they still can’t handle it, stop, put a note to the teacher on the homework and let her know that your child didn’t understand something. Obviously, if this happens every night, there’s something else going on, but on occasion, there’s going to be a lesson that gets by your kid.

8. Let teachers know when they’re doing something right. Unfortunately, parents are quick to complain when something goes wrong, but don’t let the school know when things are going well. It doesn’t take much time to send a teacher a quick e-mail to let him know that your child is excited about a particular lesson, that they’re proud of mastering a new skill, or that they’ve said something particularly nice about a teacher. While you’re at it, let the principal know too. He’s probably fielding more calls from parents with a complaint, so he’d probably like to hear something nice too.

9. Stand up for your kid if you need to. When Matthew was in kindergarten, it took a little bit of work to get him speech therapy services that he needed for a lisp he no longer has (thanks to two years of speech in school!). One year, one of my children had a teacher he thought didn’t like him. I told him that couldn’t possibly be the case, but after I heard it from him a few more times, I asked for a meeting with the teacher, brought my son along, and told her that he thought she didn’t like him. She denied it, of course, and I’ll never know if she just didn’t like him (let’s face it — we all love our kids, but we sometimes meet people in this world who we just don’t care for). But once we addressed it, she was much nicer to him.

10. Enjoy the ride. There’s something very sweet about watching our kids grow from tiny kids who are the same size as their backpacks to “big kids” who are ready to brave middle school. Hang up their artwork. Put their spelling tests on the fridge. Celebrate report cards with their favorite dinner. And hold their hand while they’ll still let you.


Yeah, he’s my favorite.

For whatever reason, lately I’ve been getting accused by both of my kids that the other one is my favorite.

Yesterday, 9-year-old Michael was closely examining the photos on our refrigerator, and told me that there are WAY many more of his older brother, so I must love him more. So, I counted — five photos of my boys together, two photos of Michael, three of Matthew, and one of our whole family together.

Drat. So, not WAY more, but still one extra photo of Matthew, and I guess that makes Michael right. About the photos anyway.

Another reason one kid might think I like the other one better? Because that’s what I tell them. No, not in a serious way — it’s just my answer to certain questions – like ‘why does he get to stay up later?,’ ‘why does he get more ice cream?,’ or ‘why does he have another pair of sneakers?’ My answer: “Because I love him more.”

I think most parents would be lying if we said that on occasion, we didn’t temporarily favor one child over the other. Like when I’ve cooked something new for dinner; one child is happily scarfing it down while the other is complaining and asking for something else? I’m sorry, but for that moment, the eating child is my favorite. Or when one is yelling about homework while the other is just doing his? Homework kid is my favorite.

As much as I always wanted to be a mom, on some level, I always worried that I wasn’t going to be able to love a child the way I was “supposed to.” When Matthew was born, I realized that I had nothing to worry about. I couldn’t believe how much I could love this little creature who did little more than cry and spit up on me. And it just got better as he started turning into an actual little person.

A few years later, Dave and I started talking about having another baby, and again I was fearful – I couldn’t imagine it was possible to love another child as much as I loved Matthew. But then there we were, parents of two boys, and then my fears seemed ridiculous. It was indeed possible to love two children.

boys and mom

And here I am now, just about 10 years into being the mom of these two amazing boys. Do I love the both the same? Nope. I love them the same AMOUNT, but I love them differently.

I love Michael’s seemingly random (but overwhelming) enthusiasm for TV shows we love to watch together – The Amazing Race, Donut Showdown and Carnival Eats. I love that he can play basketball for hours. Even by himself.

I love that Matthew tolerates my piano playing and if I play the right song, will come sing with me. I love that he seems to know the words to every song he’s ever heard, and that he’d sing endlessly in the shower if we let him. I love that at the same time, there’s room in his brain with all of those song lyrics for massive amounts of sports trivia.

I love that Matthew willingly helps Michael with 4th grade math homework that I’m already too mathematically challenged to understand. I love that Michael will defend his brother against any wrong the world throws his way, even though he’s almost four years younger and half his size (a few years ago, I accidentally closed Matthew’s hand in a door in our house; as I leaned over Matthew writhing in pain on the floor, Michael began punching me in the back for hurting his brother).

So, yeah, I guess they’re both my favorite.


An unlikely connection.

What does a 25-year-old, 300-pound NFL offensive tackle have in common with a 60-pound 9-year-old kid who played one season of flag football in third grade before deciding that it was too early and too chilly to ever want to do it again?

Not much. And everything.

Throughout Michael’s journey of having his meniscus and ACL repaired at such a young age, there have been few perks for him. Thankfully, we live in a suburb of New York City, so we’ve been able to get him excellent orthopedic care at Hospital for Special Surgery. And because we see surgeons there, on occasion, Michael has gotten to meet a professional athlete who is also being treated by these surgeons. The doctor who performed Michael’s meniscus surgery in October happens to be the team orthopedist for the Knicks, and we bumped into J.R. Smith just a few hours before the surgery.

A month and a half later, Dave took Michael to the hospital for his first post-op appointment after his ACL repair, and to have his stitches removed. On the way down the hallway, they briefly saw a man so large and athletic looking that they assumed he was a football player. And that man – Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jeff Allen – saw Michael as well.

jeff allen

Curious and concerned that someone so young had appeared to have undergone such a serious procedure, Jeff asked the office staff if he could say hello to Michael, and maybe offer him some reassurance. After all, he was here for a surgical follow-up with the same doctor for his own season-ending injury. Unfortunately, Michael was already in an exam room, having stitches removed from his five incisions, and the staff thought it would be best not to disturb him.


Thankfully, though, the office staff told Dave and Michael that the man they’d seen in the waiting room  had wanted to say hello, but had already left the office. With privacy laws in place, they couldn’t provide his name, but since Michael and Dave had seen him, they went online and quickly figured out who it was. Dave decided to take to Twitter to track down Jeff Allen, thank him for trying to meet Michael, and see if he could somehow connect the two. After a few days, Michael received an e-mail from Jeff Allen:

Hey Mike! I didn’t get to formally meet you. My name is Jeff Allen and I play offensive line for the Kansas City Chiefs. I saw you in passing while you were in a wheelchair at HSS and I wondered what happened to this little guy! I’m so sorry you have to go through this, but know everything happens for a reason and it’ll only make you stronger. I’m also on the road to recovery just like you. I tore my bicep tendon during the first game of the year and had to get surgery. I decided to fly all the way to New York from Kansas City to get my surgery because HSS is one of the best hospitals in the world for surgery! So no worries – your doctors did a great job. Get that ACL back to 110% like a champ!

We were impressed that someone with so many other things going on took the time to e-mail a boy he’d never met. But what happened after that impressed us even more.

In typical 9-year-old fashion, Michael replied to Jeff’s initial e-mail with a brief message. What we didn’t find out until a few weeks later was that Michael had e-mailed Jeff a few more times — to ask how his recovery was going, to tell him that he’d picked Jeff for his “team” on his Madden Mobile game, and to let Jeff know that he’d been given the okay to walk around without crutches at home.

Jeff replied to every single one of these e-mails:

That’s great to hear, man! Glad you’re healing up well. I’m actually close to being fully recovered.

Wassup Mike! I’m fully recovered, and it’s good to hear that you’re feeling a lot better. Keep working hard in rehab. I know you’ll come back even stronger than before.

Dave went back to Twitter to thank Jeff for keeping in touch with Michael. Jeff replied that Michael was “now his little buddy,” and that he was happy to do it.

Thank you, Jeff Allen, for understanding that being in the NFL gives you the power to give a boost to a 9-year-old. Thank you for understanding that you have more in common with this boy than many people might think.  Thank you for knowing that the few minutes it might take you to reply can lift Michael’s spirits more than you can imagine. Thank you for giving him the same supportive messages that come from his family, but can sometimes carry more weight because you understand what this kind of injury really means to someone who loves sports.

We are now fans of the Kansas City Chiefs. And especially the offensive tackle with the big heart.





What’s RIGHT in Youth Sports.

Over the last few years, our family has witnessed some pretty poor behavior in the youth sports our kids are involved with. Coaches yelling at their kids, punching walls, trying to intimidate young referees, and engaging in shouting matches with other coaches. Kids mouthing off to coaches and parents, and treating less skilled players poorly.

And over what? A game, where kids should be having fun, getting some exercise, and learning to work with their peers by playing on a team.

But this year, it’s been an entirely different story for us.

Michael is in 4th grade; he began a love affair with basketball when he was about 3 years old. Started playing in the YMCA Kindergarten league when he was in Pre-K.  Joined our in-town basketball program when it started in 2nd grade, and began talking that year about when he’d be able to try out for the town’s travel basketball program, which begins in 4th grade.

So at the end of this past summer, he started getting ready for the late September travel tryouts. On a Tuesday night, I brought him to the high school gym, where the kids participated in drills for hours. Michael loved it, and was thinking about the second tryout night the following week.

That Saturday, pitching in baseball game, Michael hurt his knee. He could still walk, but after an appointment with an orthopedist, he was told he couldn’t participate in any sports for 3 weeks, which included the second tryout. He went anyway, sat on the bench, and we hoped for the best.

By the time teams were announced a few weeks later, we learned that Michael’s knee injury was much worse than originally diagnosed; he’d torn his meniscus and ACL, had already had one outpatient surgery for his meniscus, and was going to require a second surgery to repair his ACL. Sports would be out for 9-12 months until he could fully recover.

We also learned that Michael had made the travel A team. So now what?

I checked in with the league director and Michael’s assigned coach, hoping that somehow, Michael could be a part of the team, knowing that he’d be completely laid up for a few weeks after surgery, and wouldn’t be able to play for the season. I was anxiously awaiting a reply the day of the uniform fitting; I heard back from his coach Don, who said he “didn’t think it would be a problem,” but I hadn’t heard from the league director, so I brought him to the uniform fitting, with fingers crossed.

The league director, Nick, made the connection when he saw a kid hobbling in on crutches, came over to introduce himself, and asked if we could speak privately. My stomach dropped. With some less than positive experiences we’d had in youth sports, I instinctively figured we’d be asked to leave, and I’d be left to console Michael on the way home.

Not even close. Nick had pulled me aside to let me know that if Michael wanted to be a part of the team to the extent that he could, that the league would only be able to provide a partial refund for the fee we’d paid for travel basketball. Really? With everything else we had on our plate with Michael’s injury, this was the least of our concerns. He shook Michael’s hand, and told him that he couldn’t wait to see him back on the court next year.

Elated, we returned to the team for the uniform fitting. Coach Don told Michael that he’d “earned his spot on this team,” and was as much a part of it as the rest of the boys. Don explained to the rest of the team what had happened to Michael, and even though he couldn’t play, this was his team too.


And it only got better.

When Michael went in for his ACL surgery, just after the season had started, the team sent a get-well card. Once he was able to get out a few weeks later, Michael went to as many home games and practices as he could fit in, between catching up with schoolwork, keeping up with physical therapy, and just recovering. Coach Don would have Michael lead the cheer for the team before games. Michael would keep stats on a white board. He’d learn the plays. He was as much a part of the team as he could be.

I should mention that things weren’t all great. Michael would look forward to the games, but sometimes, just before walking out the door to a game, he’d be inconsolable – because really, what 9-year-old wants to sit and watch other kids play the game that they love to play? But we’d get him into the car, and things would be okay, even if it was just while he was distracted by the game.  And thank goodness for Dave. I went to one game, and had to leave after a few minutes. It was just too sad for me, watching these kids play basketball, and seeing Michael sitting on the bench, knowing this was what he’d wanted so badly.

Once Michael could stand, balanced, without his crutches, Dave would take him to team practices, and Michael would stand and shoot baskets at the other end of the court, while Dave rebounded the ball to him. One night, a teammate saw Michael hitting every shot, and the whole team came down and counted, as he sank 10 in a row. These kids got it. This was a big deal to Michael, and they were right there with him.

Fast forward to last night. The last regular season game. Michael is off crutches, in a smaller knee brace, and walking well. The team is up by 12 points, with less than a minute left. Bill, the assistant coach, asks Dave if they can put Michael in. Don calls a time out, they explain the situation to the other team and their coach – they can’t guard Michael, because he could get hurt. They start the clock again, roll the ball down the court to Michael, who makes a shot from the corner. It goes in. The team and the parents cheer. They get it. THIS is what youth sports is about.

The story won’t end here. Michael still has months of rehab, check-ins with the surgeons, and a “return to sport” physical therapy program that will hopefully get him ready for basketball next year. But in the meantime, he’s learned so much from this experience. And so have we. There’s hope, and there are great people in this world.

Go team.



You’ve got that right. Or wrong.

A few days ago, I heard a radio report that talked about how people like to give advice to new parents. Reportedly, these people enjoy giving this advice because as parents themselves, they believe they’ve done this parenting thing so well, they think everyone should do things the same way.

Which leaves me with the thought that I must be in the minority here, because often, the advice I can offer new parents is to do something differently than I’ve done, because I’ve screwed so many things up.


This really started in my first few days of parenting, when we brought Matthew home from the hospital and could not for anything figure out how to get this kid to stop crying and sleep. We were so desperate that we called the newborn nursery at the hospital where he was born. The nurses there must have had some idea of how stupid we were, because the first question they asked was whether or not he was warm enough. As first-time parents, we were following all of the rules we’d been told about, which included not covering him with a blanket in the crib. I guess we didn’t realize that we had to find some other way to keep him warm.

We’ve been parents now for almost 14 years, and don’t get me wrong – I think we’ve got some pretty great kids. But I sometimes question how much we’ve actually had to do with that.

Just a few months ago, for example, our younger son suffered a pretty serious knee injury. Thinking he was overreacting to get a little extra attention, I made him go to Hebrew school the morning after it happened. As he limped into the building, the rabbi asked, “Michael, what happened?” My response? “Nothing as serious as he’s making it look.” Really??! I said that to our rabbi, one of the people in our community who we consider to be the arbiter of all things right and good. So after Michael’s second knee surgery, the rabbi stopped by to see how he was doing. Or maybe just to check and see if my parenting was actually as irresponsible as it seemed to be that day.

I’ve made plenty of other dumb parenting moves. When Matthew was in preschool, I invited a girl in his class to come over for a playdate. I was impressed when she came in and said, “Matthew, I’m your guest; will you please show me around?” So I thought it would be okay to leave the two of them unsupervised in our backyard for a few minutes. Again, I was wrong. This delightful little girl then came to the back door to get me, telling me that she’d tied Matthew up in our yard.

It’s not just me – sometimes Dave makes the same stupid parenting mistakes I do. When Michael was about four years old, he had a friend over to play. I had to take Matthew out somewhere, so I left the little boys at home with Dave. When I returned, he took me aside to tell me I needed to have a talk with the other boy’s mother, because when Dave went to check on them in the basement, they were sitting nicely, playing video games. Naked. And apparently it was Michael’s idea.

So, you see, I’m happy to help you out. But if you’re looking for parenting advice from someone who’s done it all right, I’m probably not your guy.


Well, this is a real bummer.

My kid got hurt playing baseball. It’s a story that began six weeks ago, is going to continue for at least another year, and will potentially impact him for the rest of his life.  Thankfully, at nine years old, he doesn’t realize this.

It’s not an unusual injury – a torn meniscus and torn ACL. But it’s unusual for someone of his age. And because of his small size (he’s a scrawny 57 pounds), surgeons will need to repair his ACL with a graft of his iliotibial band – a procedure I’d never even heard of until a week ago.


I’ve learned a lot since we discovered the severity of Michael’s injury.

  • As a parent, it’s easier to withstand your own injury, surgery and recovery. I say this from experience – I’ve broken my ankle twice and undergone four surgeries in the last two years. Spent months on crutches. And the last six weeks have been a hundred times more excruciating for me. The worst? Knowing that Michael can’t play sports for a year. That might sound silly, and I’m guessing the doctors who have heard me asking when he will be able to return to sports think that I’m some crazy mom who thinks my kid is now going to miss out on the NBA Draft. That’s not it. Knowing that he can’t throw a football around with his friends after school, won’t be able to play sports at camp this summer, that he can’t play basketball this winter, when he’s waited for three years to try out for a travel team and now will have to sit on the bench for the season and watch the rest of the team, just knowing how much fun he would have had, makes me sadder than I ever would have imagined.
  • Generally speaking, people are good. And when I say good, I mean awesome. We’ve had friends, neighbors and acquaintances helping us out, visiting and dropping off goodies and gifts for Michael. People checking in, praying, offering help. Kind people holding doors, moving out of the way (and pushing their oblivious companions out of the way). Unfailingly helpful doctors, nurses and office staff. Like I said, awesome.
  • Unfortunately, when people aren’t good, they really suck. And sometimes they mean well, but just can’t figure out what the right thing to do is. A general rule: when someone you know is scheduled for surgery, you shouldn’t call a member of their family to share your own awful experience with that same surgery. I’d think common sense would tell you that, but sometimes, people just want to connect, and that’s how they do it. But think before you say something. And if you’re not sure what to say to someone who’s going through a rough time, just say that you’re not sure what to say. It’s better than disappearing off the grid and not saying anything at all.
  • A parent will do just about anything to make their child more comfortable when they’re going through something like this. Michael had unexpected surgery sprung on him at around 11:00 a.m., and wasn’t permitted to eat for the rest of that day.  In a show of solidarity, I didn’t eat either. After his surgery, Michael slept in my bed with me for a few nights, and I’m sure he’ll be with me longer after this next, more invasive procedure. I hurt my back carrying him to the bathroom in the middle of the night because he was too tired to get himself there on crutches, and I distracted him with back scratches until pain medication kicked in.
  • I have a new found admiration for parents of children with chronic special needs, as well as the siblings of those children. Trying to balance Michael’s temporary increased needs with my own, as well as the day-to-day things that Matthew needs, is just plain impossible. We’ve made plans to spend one-on-one parent time with Matthew, and reassured him that this is temporary. But when Michael is in pain because his medication has worn off or needs help getting around, it’s something I need to take care of at that very moment. It doesn’t matter if Matthew has a question about his homework, wants to talk to me about something that happened that day, or just wants a hug. It’s going to have to wait, and that’s not fair to him. So for those of you who are carrying this burden all day every day, you have my respect. It’s not fair, and it’s not easy.
  • Put a kid in a wheelchair, and people are going to stare. It doesn’t bother me, and I don’t think Michael minds, but it’s a weird phenomenon.

Anyway, I know we’ll all get through this. I’m not sure how much of my own sanity will remain at the end, but I guess that’s part of the excitement of the journey.


What’s next?

My 9-year-old Michael had an MRI on his knee this week.  The tech “let me” stay in the room for it. I say “let me,” because sitting in the room was his idea, not mine. I didn’t actually think it was safe to be in the room for someone else’s MRI. But when the offer is made, and it’s your child undergoing the test, there really isn’t an answer other than “yes.”

I had the same MRI on the same knee a few years ago, so I did have some idea of what to expect. I knew it was loud, so I put in the earplugs the tech handed me. But otherwise, easy peasy.

And here’s what I discovered. It was easy peasy when it was ME in that tube, knowing that the diagnosis was probably going to be arthritis in my knee. It was quite different when it was my kid in there.

I found the noise, which was just loud and annoying for my own MRI, to be unbelievably jarring to my nerves this time. When it got quiet for a second, I asked Michael if he was okay, to which he quietly answered “yes,” because he was trying to follow instructions and not move at all – not even to nod his head.

And the only other thing I could do, aside from listening to that noise was to think. For 20 minutes. Which for me, isn’t usually a good thing.

I said a prayer or two for the parents who watch their children undergo an MRI that’s looking for something more serious than a diagnosis of a knee injury. I tried to telepathically communicate with Michael, to let him know I was still there, even though he couldn’t see or hear me. I thought a lot about where the MRI results might take him – through surgery, physical therapy, or more waiting to see if his 9-year-old knee will just heal on its own. I thought about how resilient Michael has been, intermittently in pain for weeks, bored because he hasn’t been able to play sports, and wondering if he’s going to be able to play on the travel basketball team he was selected for this winter, after anxiously waiting to try out for travel basketball for three years, until he was old enough.

I thought about how long I’d been sitting there, and wondering when this horrendous noise was going to end and I could hug my child. And mostly, I thought about how no matter what life throws our way, how lucky I am that I get to hold this amazing person’s hand and help him get through it.