More than a year ago, Corrigan’s metabolic doctor brought up IQ’s and stunned us with her prediction as to where Corrigan will likely land on that scale. It was a hard conversation for us and I don’t remember a lot about that day but I do remember one specific remark. She told us to make sure that we taught Corrigan to be kind and polite. She said that even if he has obvious limitations, he will be received more positively, throughout his life, if he was kind and had very good manners.
It wasn’t advice that felt important in the grand scheme of things but it stuck. It took a few weeks to shake off the idea that he might never reach a normal IQ and we needed a bit of time to grieve in that regard but with time came a certain amount of peace and that brief comment about politeness became a big focus.
Corrigan could sign “please” and “thank you” pretty easily but didn’t always use it in the proper context. Over time, though, he caught on and eventually added the words. What was once “mease” for over a year has recently turned into a far better understood “pease” and his sweet “dank do” now has a humorous “ca-ca” tacked onto the end. He now says “dank do, ca ca!” which I suddenly realized was his rendition of “thank you” and my always immediate reply of “you’re welcome!” He used “dank do, ca ca” quite frequently while he was in the hospital last week and also charmed the staff with lots of blown kisses and jovial “hi’s” when greeted.
He absolutely was treated better because he was sweet and polite and because of his manners they forgave the fact that he often firmly said “BYE BYE!” the moment they walked in the door. He might be polite but he also isn’t interested in being fussed with every hour.
While we were admitted there was a sweet young man in the room next to ours. I am terrible about guessing ages but I would say he was probably 11 years old, approaching 12. He was alone most of the time, though we spent a lot of time hiding in our own room so I can’t say for sure it was all day, every day, but such is the situation for many parents of kids with chronic disorders. Sometimes the child needs to stay hospitalized for long periods of time and the parents have to continue to work to pay the rent on the house for that child to come home to. Some parents hire sitters and others rely solely on the nursing staff to keep an eye on the patient until they can get there in the evenings.
From a distance though, I noticed this young man had a beautiful smile and lovely manners. The staff seemed genuinely affectionate towards him and let him hang out with them behind the nurses station at times. He was a genetics patient, like us, though I’ve no idea his disorder (nor should I) but our nurse mentioned that he was a “frequent flyer.”
Every Wednesday, the folks from Child Life Services do a hospital BINGO over the closed circuit tv channel. Each child is given a BINGO board and watches the channel to play along and can pick a prize among dozens that are displayed at the start of the event. They allow 8-10 winners per round and they play three full rounds. The patient can win once per game, but not twice in one match. Every child is given a prize just for playing and it is a wonderful little respite from the monotony of hospital life.
We had three back-to-back doctor/Ortho/dietary interruptions during BINGO so we missed out on a chance to win a big prize but we have won something many times in the past and didn’t feel slighted. Our nurse was also assigned to the boy next door and later that evening he told me what occured. At the start of BINGO the specialist reminds the kids to jot down, or have an adult write down, at least 3-5 prizes they might enjoy should they win. That way if someone else picks the prize they want, they will have others in mind to pick instead. Our neighbor, bless his heart, had only one item written down. During the first round, he didn’t win but was not discouraged. During the second round our nurse told us that he won and was so excited because he saw, during the prize preview at the start, a Philadelphia Eagles pillow pet. His older brother loves the Eagles and he knew that if he won, he wanted that pillow for his brother.
Not for himself, mind you. He didn’t have his eye on the video games that would make his afternoons a little less boring, or the cool racing cars or magic kits but instead, he only had eyes on something for someone else. I was incredibly emotional for most of our stay and when our nurse told me this, I burst into tears. How selfless, how wonderful that this sweet boy, who has no doubt had countless hospitalizations, who has had more trauma and stress than most kids his own age, was raised to be so generous.
But it gets better because, you see, after the ten minute break between rounds, that boy cleared his board and in what I believe was Divine recognition for his generosity, won again. This time, I’m told, he picked out the prize he had secretly wished for since the start of the game but never admitted he wanted in the first place. He won TWO prizes and my heart exploded with the beauty and fairness of the moment. A prize for his brother and a prize for himself. Kindness leads to more kindness. Selflessness really is a beautiful thing and the rewards are greater than a toy prize. I’m recommitted to teaching Corrigan these things in honor of our sweet hospital neighbor and be an even better example of those things for him.
My goodness, kids really are the best teachers.
Good character is the best tombstone. Those who
loved you and were helped by you will remember
you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your
name on hearts, not on marble.
~ Charles Spurgeon