When Life is Interrupted

On December 16, 2016, our youngest child broke her elbow. The details around this event were crazy and turned into a type of fire drill. You can read all about it here

As is often the case when an injury occurs, I had no idea how much time and effort would be required as she recovered. We are coming up on the six month post-break date, and these six months have been full of activities that were not planned. For the first four months, she visited an occupational therapist twice a week and did daily exercises 4-5 times per day. Her teachers were gracious and allowed her to leave the room during school to accomplish this.

The OT felt that our girl had reached all of the range of motion possible, but the surgeon and my perfectionist (in a good way!) physical therapist disagreed. This PT and I have a very longstanding relationship. As I discussed the situation with him, he kept saying, “that is not enough range of motion, AND IT IS HER DOMINANT ARM.” So we switched over to him and buckled down for a longer haul.

Our daughter was most motivated by her desire to return to play her beloved soccer. She missed almost the entire season, but there was hope that if she made enough progress, she could play in the last few games. That was the carrot that my husband and I held out in front of her as the weeks and months rolled along. Getting a 13 year old girl to cooperate and do twice a day 15-30 minute regimen of elbow exercises is not easy…on her or her parents!

We communicated to her PE and “crew” teacher as certain restrictions were removed. At one point, she was released to participate but needed to avoid “contact” while playing. One teacher said, “you do know this is your daughter that we are talking about…” My husband said, “our girl makes saying hello a contact sport.” She is exuberant, for sure.

The day that she was released to play soccer was one of great joy. As we drove up to practice, she felt a little timid and unsure, but her team greeted her with open arms and great delight. She fit right back into the mix.

But she was still not released from doing the daily exercises. The frequency and duration did decrease a bit, but we as parents and our child have had to dig deep to keep up the multiple times a day exercises. There is no longer a soccer carrot, just the long-term carrot of a greater range of motion. At the age of 13, that doesn’t mean a whole lot, so we the parents must creatively keep up the motivation. That has not been easy for us or for our girl. Quite a few of these elbow exercise sessions have included shouting matches and stomping away (mostly, but not only, on the part of the child in the equation).

One day, she invited me back to the scene of the accident. I cringed a bit as she showed me the 6-7 foot high wall that was the scene of the jump. I hope that next time she is in a similar situation she will pause, but there have been a few indications that this is not likely. Some kids are just like that… I think that she likes to visit this site to begin to make peace with that day and all that has ensued since.

As I have had to alter plans, change routines, and do things I would rather not do having to do with this elbow, I am reminded of the Conscious Discipline workbook that I did with several other moms years ago. Becky Bailey’s reminder that “accepting what is” is so very helpful as we parent. When we fight against and wish for things to be different, we create anxiety and stress within ourselves and amongst our family.

There have been lessons learned along the way. When life is interrupted, it typically comes bearing gifts. Divvying up the responsibility between my husband and me to be the exercise supervisors has created a stronger partnership. Having a child who needed to ask for help along the way built character and the knowledge that at times we all need a little help from our friends. Accepting that accidents happen and what “is” begets patience and peace.

At this point, there is no more carrot to dangle in front of her as we do the PT visits and the twice plus daily exercises. We are each just gutting it out. In less than a week, we have her last scheduled PT visit. We expect to hear, “you are finished.” We all look forward to a summer vacation from school, from routines, and from elbow exercises.

Update: If you read my last blog on the shoe adventures of my daughter and me, once again last Sunday, my daughter decided to walk 1.1 miles in her 3 inch heels. I questioned this choice and suggested that she put a change of shoes into my backpack. She smugly said, "no." She made it there, but blisters started forming. On the way back home (there was no car ride to rescue her this time), she decided to walk barefoot. The sidewalks and streets were hot. She darted between shady spots. I wonder if she will make a different choice next time. As I wait for the power of natural consequences to kick in, I continue to remind myself once again..."it is what it is."