On spring break, I took my children to the swimming pool. Now there is nothing unusual about taking my children to the swimming pool. I do it at least once a week. Like any parent, I pack up the towels, the bathing suits, a swim diaper, maybe a snack and we head to the pool. This day there was a 4-year-old girl who was interested in playing with our family.
My 8-year-old son loved the attention; he smiled at her and she seemed delighted to perform tricks for us, asking if my son could do flips in the water too. We told her he could not flip, and she seemed proud that even though she was younger she had superior swimming skills. My older child and I were beaming most of the time because, for my son, this was the first time he had ever walked independently. With the right pool depth and the help of the lifejacket, my son was taking independent steps across the pool for the first time in his life. We were overjoyed, celebrating his feats and cheering him on. The little girl relished in the joy of our family. She invited my son to her birthday party, never noticing that he does not communicate with words, just excited to make a new friend.
We left the pool at the same time she did, as she went to meet her mother in the changing room. When I removed my son’s lifejacket, the little girl noticed his G-tube. She pointed to it asking, “What is that?”
And her mother replied, “Oh, that is just how God made him.”
Now, I don’t need to get into a theoretical discussion on the existence of God, but I am pretty sure we can all agree that God did not give my son a G-tube — doctors did. In fact, my son did not need the assistance of a tube to feed until well into his second year of life. The G-tube is clearly a medical intervention.
So, I replied, “Well, this is a G-tube. It is a little tube that the doctors placed into his stomach so that he could eat.”
Then the little girl replied, “Like, could he eat my birthday cake that way?”
And I said, “Yes, he would love to eat your birthday cake that way.”
She looked relieved, “Oh good, because it is going to be a delicious cake.”
Children are curious and they want to ask about things they have never seen before. I can guarantee that anyone who has a G-tube has been asked, “What is that?” many, many times. If your child is the one asking, let them ask, you never know what they are thinking unless you let them voice it. It’s OK to admit that you don’t know what it is. It is OK to ask if your child is too shy.
It is unnecessary to come up with an answer that leaves a child wondering if some children are born with extra accessories like a new and improved baby-alive doll. For this little girl, she did not need to know how he got it, or why he got it, just whether he would be able to share her delicious birthday cake.
Getty image by StockPlanets