Twenty Things I Would Like to Teach my Future Children

Today’s brief foray to the market, my second departure from the house in an otherwise homebound week full of flu-like symptoms, inspired me to make a list of things I would like to teach my future children, God-willing. I wanted roast beef but the pre-packaged slices contained 22% of your daily sodium intake per serving, so I opted to buy my own pot roast and make my own low-sodium roast beef, despite the fact that my current ickiness level does not predispose me to a strong desire to cook. I wanted last-minute Halloween candy, but the bulk bags placed strategically in the middle of the store with VERY large, very bright “SALE” signs proved to be more expensive per ounce than smaller bags tucked away in the candy aisle. I do not mean at all to imply through the making of this list that I have these skills down by any stretch of the imagination, but they are things that I hope to always personally cultivate, and teach to another person, in at least some imperfect way.

So here we go.  At least twenty things I would like to teach my future children:

1.)  How to read food labels.

2.)  How to read price tags beyond the “sale” sign.

3.)  How to budget in a way that intentionally prioritizes the needs of those less fortunate.

4.)  How to maximize a load of laundry or a load of dishes.

5.)  How to travel light.

6.)  How to take care of another living thing, be it a plant, a fish, a dog, or a person with special needs.

7.)  How to refrain from habitually turning the focus of conversation onto themselves.

8.)  How to wait for others to finish their sentence before interrupting.

9.)  How to say to another person’s face, “It’s not ok that you did that.”

10.)  How to recognize and respect social cues.

11.)  How to read the Bible.

12.)  How to listen to and think about perspectives radically different from their own.

13.)  To think a lot about how another person would feel walking into the space they just left behind, in the bathroom, at home, at work.

14.)  To greet housekeepers and maintenance staff at hotels, restaurants, etc. in the eye and say “thank you” often.

15.)  To tip wait staff generously for good service.

16.)  To spend at least a month in a foreign country, preferably one less developed than the United States, and preferably in living conditions equal to that of the locals for at least part of the time.

17.)  That they should never expect to be exempt from unexpected suffering.

18.)  That sometimes, it does matter what other people think of them, because integrity, influence and character matter.

19.)  That God’s love will always be greater than any negative thought or emotion they will ever think or feel about themselves.

20.)  That it is worth it to work through the hard questions about God.

Tough Love Can Be Tough

I’m used to patients being terrified of getting worse. But it took me awhile to realize that the main issue I was now dealing with was that this patient was terrified of getting better. I’m sure there are plenty of psychological publications and blog posts by some really smart people that have already covered this phenomenon, so I certainly don’t claim to be discovering anything new. But it was a new situation for me to find myself in, particularly as I had been with this patient for over a month and had a more intricate relationship with him than with patients that I have for only one or two days. There is an inherent emotional and psychological distance that you can keep from patients and families whom you care for for only a shift or two. But this changes, inevitably, when you are with them as their nurse for an extended period of time.

He had a physical disease process with some setbacks during his recovery, which sentenced him to a prolonged hospital stay. But he also had some psychological and emotional dysfunction that went even further back, which appeared to have gone unaddressed until now. He was intensely needy, refusing to let his primary caretaker from home rest, and fearfully reluctant to let go of various hospital treatments that had become his source of security over time. On the morning of my final shift with him, knowing that he would soon be transitioning out of the ICU, I started off the shift by saying, “Our big goal today is to work on boundaries.” His response: “What’s that?” Oh dear. Each step in this final push towards recovery meant that there would less of all the external support – less treatment, less comfort and coddling, less urgency of response for issues that were not true crises. The growing expectation on him to work through the uncomfortable changes and responsibilities of recovery was almost more than he could handle. I’m so used to my therapeutic nursing role being that of one who brings comfort and relief as much as possible. I wish someone had told me in nursing school that sometimes, the therapeutic nurse is also the one who will hold his or her ground with a firm ‘no’ when the patient is crying, pleading, throwing a tantrum, suffering (but not really suffering).

There is a big part of my ego that wanted him to love me as his primary nurse. I wanted him to thank me for everything I had helped him through. But my final shift with him involved me being a big source of his frustration and discomfort, perhaps some disappointment as well. There would be no thanks offered – just his desperate plea that I would somehow let him go back to the less healthy state that he was in before. It was at that point that I knew for certain I had truly given him the very best that I could as his nurse, and as his friend. Because more than wanting his thanks, I wanted him to get better.

I can see myself in him. It’s how I am sometimes too, towards life, towards others, and towards God. I have a deeper appreciation now for the times when God allows me to struggle. That is a wisdom and love that I still plead against. I kept asking my patient if he still trusted me. I think that is what my Father in Heaven asks me too.