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Building your child’s resilience starts with support

My son was 4 years old. Still so small, so dependent on his mama. It was an ordinary day when he developed an unordinary limp. It started small and barely noticeable, but it progressed rapidly. Within a couple of hours, he was limping heavily and complaining of pain. He hadn’t injured it that I knew of, and my boy’s tears prompted me to head to our pediatrician’s office.


It was a 20 minute drive to the hospital. By the time we got there, my son could no longer walk. I had no idea what was happening. I carried him into the doctor’s office and frantically said he needed to be seen right away. On the exam table, it was noted that he had redness and swelling in all of his joints, and he cried out in pain when they were touched. His pediatrician determined he had serum sickness due to an antibiotic he was on for strep throat. He recommended he be admitted immediately and given a course of prednisone.

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Registration for admittance took another 30 minutes or so. I held him on my lap as we waited. He was scared and in pain, and my heart ached for my sweet boy. Once in the room, he was instantly surrounded by a team of nurses who got to work.

As they tried more than 10 times to get an IV in him and failed, I held his hands and rubbed his head, whispering in his ear that I was so sorry and that I was there for him. Since they couldn’t get the IV in, they had to go with oral medication, which they administered, and we waited.

By the next day, he could walk again. In a few days, he was back to his normal, happy, energetic self. He went through quite a traumatic experience for a f4 year old, but here’s why I’m telling you this story.

Now, years later, when he recounts this event which he remembers quite well, he doesn’t talk about the fear, the needles, the pain or the medicine. He refers to that day as “the day mommy carried me.”

Mamas, in this story, there is hope for us all and a valuable lesson. It proves that love is greater than hurt. It is a stunning example of the power of presence, connection, and love in building resilience. Our children will face trials and adversities, but as long as we there to “carry them through,” they’ll be okay.

It’s in the carrying them that they find the strength to stand and walk on their own.

Resilience isn’t built in the falling and getting back up. Resilience is built in leaning, in loving, in being carried. It’s built in connection, like so many things in childhood (and life) are.

According to The Center of the Developing Child at Harvard University, the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult.

Since then, I’ve carried my boy a lot, and even though he’s now too big for me to physically pick up, he knows that I’ll be there to carry him through anything he faces.

We all need someone to carry us from time to time, and my greatest wish as a mother, beyond hoping my children are healthy and happy, is that they know without question they have someone to run to. I hope that “the day mommy carried me” will continue to live in his mind as a reminder that it’s okay to be carried when you cannot stand on your own. I think that’s a lesson we would all do well to remember.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

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