In our family, a boo-boo on a leg has several meanings. Right now, it’s what my son is dealing with. He recently came home from kindergarten having experienced a “first”: his first stumble and fall and subsequent trip to the office for a band-aid.
Both his knees were skinned, and one was bandaged. Ryan told me the fall happened during recess while he was playing a game with a classmate.
No parent wants their child to be hurt, to experience pain. But, I was happy to hear that the fall and boo-boos were the result of a game. I asked Ryan if it was a fun game, if he had been enjoying himself, and I got an emphatic “Yes!” This was great news because for the first few weeks of kindergarten, I was told that Ryan wasn’t playing and socializing much with his classmates.
We talked about how our bodies know how to heal themselves. Ryan remembered another fall and scrape on his knee when he was four years old, and acknowledged that it had “gone away” and gotten better. I assured him these bruises would do the same thing.
But then Ryan told me that the next time we visit the Los Angeles Zoo, he would need a wheelchair since his legs have boo-boos. It was one of those moments when I bit my lip and tried not to cry. We had ventured to the zoo this summer, and I had warned Ryan that I might need to use a wheelchair. Ryan doesn’t know I have an autoimmune disease that causes me pain and makes my legs weak. He knows my legs have boo-boos.
(I never did rent the wheelchair. I was much too stubborn and wanted to experience the zoo alongside my son and husband. I’m not sure if I’ll be that stubborn next time; the pain afterwards was dreadful.)
I had to explain to Ryan that he wouldn’t need a wheelchair. His boo-boos are on the outside of his legs. He is strong and healthy, and his boo-boos will heal. I reminded Ryan that my boo-boos are on the inside of my legs. They’re harder to heal which is why I take so many medicines and see so many doctors. He seemed reassured.
Autoimmune diseases aren’t easy. They’re full of variables. They’re chronic. They’re life-changing. And it’s not just my life it’s changing; it’s my family’s life too.
My heart was heavy knowing that my five-year old son will have no memories of me before my disease. He will only know me as Mommy with boo-boo legs. My eyes well up, and I have to chastise myself. We are lucky. We are a family. Boo-boo legs and all.