She's stubborn but she's brave, she's conniving but she's compassionate and she knows more than any 2nd grader should ever have to know. And today, she had the toughest lesson of her life.
Karly was picked for Student of the Week in her class and she had to fill out a poster with things about her to share with her classmates. We took pictures of her pets, our house, she drew her favorite food, wrote her favorite colors, listed her friends, and pasted photos of her aspired jobs. We also had to include a photo of our family. This was our first obstacle with this project and it is one I had not yet been faced with. I had already thought about it, what our family pictures would be--for the rest of our lives. Family pictures would always be difficult for me because no matter what kind of family picture, cousins on my side, cousins on Patric's side, pictures of the kids or a picture of our family, there would always be someone missing. This is a painful reminder that I don't ever see going away. I have a family picture of us in the living room taken just before I got pregnant with Chase and I remember thinking how "full" our lives seemed in that picture and how on earth were we going to handle one more Pearson. Now, when I look at that picture, all I see is what is missing. Our beautiful son, their handsome baby brother. I decided one of the first times looking at that photo after Chase died that I would always be holding him for every family picture from here on out. I would hold his blanket or something physical, something significant that would represent Chase in the photograph. We took a snapshot family photo for Karly's poster yesterday and I wanted Chase in it somehow, whether or not Karly wanted to explain it to her class. I needed Chase in it. So Karly held her Chase blanket in the photo and we left it at that.
Later that night, it was time to get her show-and-tell item(s) that she would be sharing with her classmates as part of the Student of the Week priveleges. She asked what we thought she should take and after a few suggestions of her American Girl doll or a stuffed animal, she disappeared to her bedroom. She returned with her photograph of her holding Chase in the NICU, moments before he died. And she had a smile on her face.
This is the same girl that I warned her teacher the first day of school was not comfortable talking about her baby brother and to please "protect" her for me from any kids that might try to ask her about him. I did not know what to think. On one hand, I was extremely comforted in the fact that she wanted to share him with her classmates. On the other hand, I was so deeply petrified that she would get asked a heartless question about the picture in all it's uneducated eye's gory and she would get hurt. All I want to do is protect her from hurt. And I think at 7 years old, I should be able to do that as her mom. How was I to know how this might unfold? The potential for invited catastrophe was terrifying. I told her to show her dad what she picked. She did and I could Patric was touched. He was proud. I was too. So very proud of her for even thinking about doing this. But I just couldn't bare her getting hurt. The hurt that you just can't take away no matter what because you can't bring back her baby brother to make it all better. After seeing Patric's approving nod to her when he saw the picture, I felt better. I asked her if she was sure she felt comfortable with this and she said, without hesitation, "yes". Where is the rule book on grief and how to handle situations like this with your 7-year-old? Why can't someone just tell me what to do? I feel like I am making decisions that will affect her for life. The way she deals with this now, will affect what she takes with her as a memory of her baby brother forever. Of course all of our decisions have the potential to affect our children's lives but this, this is something parents shouldn't HAVE to deal with.
I walked her to her classroom and had a brief talk with her teacher about what was going on. I also talked to the school counselor and asked for her help, too. Between the both of them, my apprehensive willingness to allow this and Karly's undying strength, the day was a success. She told her class all about herself, her family, her pets and her favorite things. She shared with her entire class her baby brother by showing her picture and talking about him. And, unbeknownst to her at the time, she has a classmate who lost a baby sister and when she shared her story of Chase, he spoke up and shared his baby sister with the class.
I can't tell you how this makes me feel. I can't tell you how proud I am of my little girl. She has always been my tough little girl. But this gives a whole new meaning to the word. She has always been strong, physically. But now, I know she is strong emotionally, too. She has compassion like not very many 2nd graders could ever have, and thankfully so. She sacrificed exposing herself in a way even adults struggle to do, to be able to share her baby brother with the world. And maybe, just maybe, this 7-year-old made another 7-year-old feel comfort in his journey of such undeserving pain and grief. Maybe he knows if Karly can talk about her loss, it might be something he decides he wants to do, too. If not, though, I am so glad that he spoke up. Because I know his mama is just as proud of him as I am Karly.
I am comforted in a way that will last forever. Chase, you are missed little buddy. And you would have been proud of the way your sister showed you off today. Because you are not here, but you are with us. And you always will be. We love you, Maverick. We love you so much.