Recently an indoor trampoline center opened a few miles from our house. Knowing how Tess likes to jump and bounce, I took her there.
She loved it. As soon as we started jumping together, she smiled and squealed, and did the thing she does when most excited: she held her breath, made her eyes bug out, and wiggled her arms overhead. It’s like she’s having a brief overload of delight. It’s cool to see.
I ended up less enthused about the place than she was, mostly because I did something galactically dumb: I wiped out big time on one of the trampolines. My fall destroyed my knee and put me on crutches for a few days.
Turns out I tore my ACL. Now I’m off the crutches but am a little unstable and can’t fully bend or straighten the leg. Tess seems to know exactly what happened. She is less interested in walking than ever before. She demands to be picked up at every moment. When I try to make her walk, she folds up her legs and looks up at me, as if to say, “I can’t tell what you’re trying to make me do here.” And with the bad knee, carrying her sucks right now. She’s a backbreaker.
So, people who like the new trampoline center: orthopedists, our chiropractor, and Tess.
Since hearing about my injury, a lot of our friends and family have been writing and calling, asking what they can do to help. I did what I always do in response to such offers. I waved them off and didn’t take anybody up on it.
Nope, I don’t let people help. Not sure what my deal is with that. Part of it comes from having relied on people, having trusted them in the past, and having gotten burned. Example: my wife and I hire a new babysitter, explain details of Tess’s danger of nighttime no-breathing, train the new sitter on how to use our home suction unit, and then return home one night, asking, “How was Tess?”, only for the sitter to reply, “No idea. She’s been quiet up there for a few hours, so I assume she’s fine.” Aaaaaaaaand pink slip.
In spite of memories like these, I know I need to let go. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I have resolved lately to ask for more help and accept it when it’s offered. So if you’re reading this, and we’re hanging out anytime soon, here’s a few things you can do to help me.
(1) As I arrive to meet you, offer to take Tess for a second, so I can visit the men’s room.
This sounds so bizarre, I know. But bringing Tess into the facilities is ridiculous. I have to throw her over one shoulder and keep her there while undoing my belt, unzipping, etc. She never stays still. She never cooperates. While balanced on my shoulder, she usually tries to gouge my eyes out or chomp out a big chunk of my earlobe. So if I’m on my own with Tess and am meeting you out in public, chances are I haven’t gone since like breakfast. It only takes a minute, but it means a lot if I can do that alone. Seriously.
(2) Include Tess in stuff.
Tess has no friends. She’s five. No playdates, no birthday parties with classmates. In case you’re wondering whether I’ve noticed this, I have. Tess likes people. She’s social. She’s finally at a point now where she notices other kids and wants to interact with them. It might not bother Tess to be left out, but it bothers me.
This past summer, we were on vacation on an island here in Maine. A family was staying in the house next door, just across the cove from us. They had three boys, all around Dana and Tess’s ages, and we hung out quite a bit. One morning, one of them, the youngest, came around the cove and through the woods to invite Dana to come to their house for breakfast. Tess was in her high chair, eating, and the kid got right in her face and grinned and said, “How about youuuu? Would you like to come to breakfast too?” I loved that kid for doing that. He just wanted to include her, and I don’t think his folks put him up to it.
The kid was practically a stranger. We’d known him about 72 hours. But there are people who for years we’ve thought of as our closest friends, and they don’t think to do what he did.
(3) Root for her.
It’s weird to have to put this on the list, but it makes a big difference when people do it. It doesn’t take much. Follow her progress. Ask how she’s doing. Care.
I’ve been blown away lately by the people who’ve done this, sometimes when I least expect it. It happened on Halloween, while Dana was trick-or-treating with a friend. The other kid’s dad–who I’d only met a few times before and barely knew–asked all about Tess. For maybe ten minutes while we watched our boys dash from house to house ringing doorbells, he and I stayed in the street and talked. He wanted to know about her genetic testing, her school and her daily life. Above all, he listened. And again, some of the people we thought were our closest allies don’t do that. It means a lot, though.