The Impact of Isolation

Like so many others, we recently made the decision to isolate our family for 14 days. It wasn’t an easy choice – it certainly wasn’t mandated due to recent travel. Our decision came at a time when the information available was mixed, and we weren’t really sure how serious this virus was.

Prior to having made this choice, we celebrated Robert’s 6th birthday. Before those feelings of uncertainty penetrated our lives, Robert was surrounded by a small group of friends and celebrated by a room full of people singing “Bonne Fête”.

He blew out the candles on his giant pull-apart cupcake-cake, and devoured his favourite flavour, ‘show-co-lawt’.

Birthday pull-apart cupcakes

He laughed, was loved, and had the best night’s sleep following his Little Gym party.

The following day, we went over to my parents. It was the beginning of March Break, and Robert was going to camp “Grandmaman et Pépère” while Mom & Dad worked. Just days before, news had come that schools were to be closed for 2 extra weeks, but we had only learned that day that the daycare was closing. Everything felt surreal – was this an exaggeration? A knee-jerk reaction by our government?

The plan was for us to return on Robert’s birthday. We would celebrate as an extended family, watch him open a few gifts, sing his favourite song (“Bonne Fête”), and after cake, we’d take him home.

As the week progressed, each day seemed to bring with it more uncertainty.

I’m sure you all felt it.

One day, you wake up thinking “ah it’s just a bad cold or flu, we’ll be fine if we get it!” and the next, you find yourself obsessively washing your hands, cleaning everything, and physically avoiding people you pass on the street. Then you find yourself looking at the Government’s symptom checker, convinced that the tickle in your throat and the fatigue you feel is caused by this novel virus, and not the fact you are a full-time parent who is simultaneously hopping on conference calls, prepping meals, walking the dog, and scrubbing down doorknobs.

That uncertainty you felt? We did, too.

That feeling led us to make the decision to isolate. We would not leave our home or yard except to walk the dog.

We stopped bringing the littles to the playground at the local school and the nearby parks.

Days later, the City announced all public parks were closed.

The feelings of unease continued to grow.

We were waiting for the news to give us answers, to tell us when to expect normalcy to return.

All that came was more uncertainty.

That uncertainty led to our decision to stay home and isolate ourselves.

This meant that we would not be picking up Robert until those 14 days of isolation were over.

It meant we’d kissed our 5-year-old for the last time. The next time we saw him, wouldn’t be on the day he turned 6, but weeks later.

Since this is a global health-crisis, we understand why we aren’t able to be with him.

We, the adults, made the decision together. Our big boy is with two people we trust implicitly. He is loved beyond measure, he is well cared for, and, boy, was he celebrated on the day he turned 6.

And though I worried about how Robert would feel without his family party on his birthday, I admit, I never thought to consider the impact that this would have on Sullivan.

But recently, that impact became so glaringly obvious.

The other morning we walked the dog to a near-by wooded area, with the kids in the double stroller. Our dog-walking tradition has become one where Sullivan gets out of the stroller when we get to big paths or wooded areas. He loves nothing more than being able to “cours vite! cours vite!” (run fast! run fast!) in the wooded area.

He is so excited that he doesn’t know where to look as he runs along, occasionally falling down as his feet try to keep up with the momentum caused by his level of excitement.

If you’ve never watched a 2 year old run in the woods, giggling, you’re missing a truly joyful sight.

Exploring with Sullivan ©luckymama.ca

On this walk, as he was running along the path, we came by a woman and her toddler playing on the forest floor. Seeing us, they moved off the path to let us pass.

As Sullivan ran past them, he cried out “LES AMIS! LES AMIS!”. He was so thrilled to see other people, and another small child.

I realized in that moment that with daycare being closed, not only was he not seeing his daycare friends, he wasn’t seeing anyone but his mom, dad, and baby brother. He must be feeling so alone.

Later that same evening, after Sullivan brushed his teeth and put on his jammies, we began the bedtime routine.

As part of the bedtime routine that night, we read books, then I rocked and sang to him, as I told him I loved him and thanked him for a fun day.

When Robert first went to Camp Grandmaman & Pépère, Sullivan would ask to sleep in Robert’s bed. Sullivan and Robert, you might remember, share a bedroom. But these past few nights, he began to choose the comfort (and security?) of his crib instead. Not only that, he’s started to insist on sleeping with his bedroom door open.

That night, I ran my fingers through his hair as I spoke about how we’d get to spend time playing together the next day. I whispered good night, told him I loved him, and left his room.

Without thinking, I closed his door as I left.

He cried. And not just the cry of protest, but the sound of heartache.

When I went to check on him, I asked him if he missed Robert. He nodded. He calmed down in my arms, I told him I loved him, and put him back to bed. As I left the room, I was sure to check that his door was open behind me.

It was this moment that it hit me.

In that moment, I truly realized how difficult this isolation is on Sullivan.

As adults, we sometimes forget that our littles are acutely aware of what is happening around them. We forget how they observe, and try to process and absorb change.

I was guilty of this with Sullivan. I assumed that to him, this wouldn’t be much different than a long weekend, or Christmas break. He’d be able to run, play and cuddle with us every day.

But this boy, my little firecracker, feels things so deeply. I should have known he would notice. That Sullivan would feel a void in the place his brother holds in his heart, in our hearts, and the spaces he belongs in the house.

He misses his daycare friends. He misses his routines. Most importantly, he misses his family – his aunts, grandparents and his big brother.

We are doing our part, and it comes with a huge sacrifice of being separated from our son. We ask that you please do yours.

The sooner Canadians get on board, the sooner this will be over and the sooner our family will be back together.

We are all feeling the change and the challenges. The grief and the uncertainty. Your experience with these emotions might be different than ours, but we are all feeling it.

© Lace&Lavender Photography #FrontPorchPhotos

Please give yourself grace, give your neighbours grace, and most importantly, please #StayTheFuckHome.

Happy March Birthdays

March is a fun month.

In early March, we celebrate my husband’s birthday. We remind him that he is appreciated and loved. We shower him with homemade cards and birthday cake, and we toast to another great trip around the sun.

Then there is Robert’s birthday. He was born just days before World Down Syndrome Day.

We celebrate Robert and the joy he brings us on March 19th. We have a small birthday party, where he gets to run and play. And, more importantly (to him), everyone sings BONNE FÊTE to him and he gets to eat his birthday cake.

Robert’s 5th Birthday

Because we are fortunate to have been gifted pre-loved toys, clothes and books, we ask that the birthday guests donate to one of our favourite charities instead of bringing him birthday gifts.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Canada is a charitable organization that has helped our family. Our local hospital has a family room, where parents can have a meal or take a shower, or even do laundry and have a nap! It’s located in the hospital, and it’s invaluable to anyone who has had a child stay in the hospital but who doesn’t want to leave their side.

I first learned about it shortly after Robert was born. He was placed in the NICU, and remained there even after I was discharged from the mother-care unit. I refused to leave the hospital without my baby. I slept on the small couch/bed that was in his room, as uncomfortable as that was, just to be as close to him as possible.

The nurses in the NICU made certain that I knew of the RMHC Family Room. They insisted I check it out, and gave me the nudge I needed to have a nap on a real bed, take a real shower, and eat some hot food. This was all generously supplied to me, and parents like me, by donations to the RMHC. The room was run by volunteers, and there was a certain sense of comfort in seeing other families use the lounge room with me. Even though we were all there for different reasons, we all quietly understood that the other was struggling with a sick child.

Having access to the RMHC Family Room meant that I was able to stay close to my baby without neglecting my own self-care. My family visited as much as possible, and helped in so many ways, but having the opportunity to shower, especially mere days post-partum, was a special kind of comfort.

As a result, whenever we celebrate Robert’s birthday, we set up a birthday fundraiser. We ask our friends and family to donate to the RMHC in Robert’s name. Please consider donating to Robert’s 6th birthday fundraiser, and help keep families together during difficult times.

#NotAnAd
#WeJustLoveRobert
#AndRMHC

Donate at: https://www.rmhccanada.ca/fundraisers/robert-is-6

Birthday Parties

Robert was invited to a classmate’s birthday party. Not only was it going to be the first classmate’s birthday party he’d been invited to attend, but it was also going to be a pool party. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit nervous about it. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

Robert has taken swimming lessons. In fact, he is currently in weekly swimming lessons at the local YMCA. Despite his love of water, he has some trouble understanding water safety, and to objectively gauge his own abilities in the pool.

I had decided, in advance, that I would stay with him at the party. I wasn’t sure how many parents would stay behind, nor was I certain on how many would be in the water with the kids, but I knew for my own peace of mind, I needed to be in the water with him.

We borrowed a puddle jumper from our local ‘Buy Nothing’ group. I had hoped it would help Robert to be more confident in his swimming abilities, and in the water with so many kids. On the morning of the party, my husband went to pick up the puddle jumper from a neighbour, and I frantically looked through my drawers trying to find a swim suit (and one that would fit my post-partum body!).

I found my swimsuit, put it on under my clothes, packed our bags (triple checking to be sure I didn’t forget a towel, underwear or any other important items), and off we went to the party.

Robert was excited. When he heard he was going to his friend’s birthday party, he couldn’t wait for the singing and the cake. He kept telling me he was looking forward to the “Bonne Fête”.

As soon as we stepped into the party room, my worries whether or not Robert would fit in just melted away. He immediately started running around and playing games with the other kids. They called out his name in excitement as he joined them! Since Robert goes to French school, and most of the guests were classmates, the kids automatically began speaking to each other in French.

I noticed not many parents were staying. I knew for Robert’s safety in the water, I was going to have to stay, but I was hoping to see some other moms in the water with me. It’s not easy putting on a swimsuit in front of a room of adults sitting on the poolside, but I kept telling myself that it was more important for Robert to have fun and be safe than it was for me to feel good in that swimsuit.

When the time came to go swimming, I changed Robert into his swim suit and took him to the washroom quickly (just in case). As soon as we got to the pool deck and he saw his friends in the water, he just could not wait to join them.

I tried to get him to go slowly. I tried to convince him to take his time. But he was just too excited. His friends were all jumping, swimming and splashing, and just like them, he was looking to have a good time.

I quickly took off my clothes, tossing them onto an empty pool chair, and went to enter the pool at the stairs. As I did this, I was keeping an eye on Robert, who was preparing himself to jump in with both feet.

I got to him just in time.

He jumped in full force, just like his friends. He did so with such gusto that what happened next totally caught him off guard.

He sunk.

Puddle jumpers are not meant to be a personal flotation device, and as it turns out, our boy sinks quite easily!

I grabbed him as he came up to the surface, eyes wide open as he gasped for air with a look of panic. That moment shook him up. For the next 20 minutes he stayed on the deck playing “basketball”, flat out refusing to get back in the water with his friends.

I finally convinced him to try entering the water again. Reluctantly, he joined me in the pool, holding on to me tightly as I encouraged him to practice his kicks and his back float.

Back in the party room, Robert was once again treated like he was just another kid at the party. And while my head knows that he IS just another kid, my heart is always seeking to protect itself from pain. It’s especially bracing itself from seeing my children, especially Robert, in any pain.

Despite knowing he was invited by a friend, and knowing these were classmates of his, I was still worried that he would be excluded. I worried that outside of the classroom, he’d be ostracized in some way, and I wasn’t really sure how that would make me feel, how I would react, or how he would handle it all.

But there he was. Sitting next to his friends, eating his pizza, fruit and cake (and later, checking all the juice boxes littering the table to make sure they were empty *sigh*).

After a fun-filled afternoon of swimming, singing, cake eating, and playing, the party was over. Robert fell asleep on the drive home, further proof that this birthday party was the best party.

For other parents, a classmate’s birthday party might not seem like much more than a simple childhood activity with the added stress of picking out a gift for a child relatively unknown to the parents.

For us, this invitation was proof that other people see him as we do. This invitation was proof that Robert is accepted and included. For us, this party meant so much more than we could put into words.

Happy Birthday, Fin! Hope you enjoyed your special day.