B is for Bounce

Tigger.

tigger
That’s who I think of when I hear the word bounce. And my son, Luke. He’s definitely a “bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy--fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!” kind of kid. And just like Tigger, “he’s the only one.”

When I looked up the word in the dictionary, there were lots of definitions, but the two I liked best were (1) to move with a lot of energy and excitement; and (2) to return quickly to a normal condition after a difficult situation or event (bounce back).

I’ve been thinking a lot about bouncing back lately because it’s been a rough nine months: In October, my cousins’ husband died unexpectedly, right before his son’s wedding, and I had an emergency appendectomy. November saw my father-in-law back in the hospital. In December, my mom fought pneumonia and had a minor stroke (that phrase seems very misleading to me. It’s never minor to the family or the patient, in my opinion). At the start of 2017, Trump was elected president and my best friend from high school, had major surgery and her recovery was hard. In February, Nancy was diagnosed with cancer, and just last week, she died.

And these are just some of the big events that we’ve needed to bounce back from as a family and community. Day to day, there are little setbacks that we all need to recover from: not making the team, being left out of a party, not getting the job, missing the payment, anxious days, sleepless nights.

Bouncing back, resilience, is an important trait to cultivate. Without it, we’d be stuck in the mire of our negativity—or at least I would. I can take a thought and go, go, go. Sadly, it’s usually a downward spiral. I don’t often take a happy thought and run with it to the logical conclusion. I take a negative thought and speed to the illogical conclusion.

So, resilience is a quality I want my kids to learn. I want to develop this quality, too! And the good news is that it can be learned. According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” This is such an important attribute for everyone, but especially young adults who are going through experiences that will shape them and help them become happy and healthy adults. And the teenage years can be full of situations that need to be recovered from. I’m still recovering from some events from middle school!

See, just like Tigger, my 13-year old is boisterous and exuberant, wonderful and one-of-a-kind. He eagerly shares his enthusiasm with others—whether they want him to or not. I’m not sure if Tigger has ADHD, like Luke, but you never know.

Luke was born 8 weeks early and really fought to survive. For a preemie, he was huge (3 lbs., 3 oz.), but he still had his issues: a tiluke-nicu-2ny brain bleed (again, words that don’t seem to go together) and troubles breathing & eating at the same time. His birth was the first “bouncing back” he had to do. And bounce he did!

But premature birth can lead to long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities. They can cause a person to have trouble or delays in physical development, learning, communicating with others, getting along with others, and taking care of themselves. Luke has some of these issues and recently, he’s been dealing with some exclusion and mean behavior by his friends.

It’s heart-breaking when your kids go through difficult times. And I struggle to maintain a perspective that can help my kids. Sometimes, it brings up my own past. Often, it activates that Mama Bear instinct and I want to go on a rampage. Always it makes me sad.

Yesterday he sent us an article to read. Even as I read it, I felt twinges of hope and sadness. Hope because Luke was taking the initiative and doing some research; sadness because he felt he needed to investigate. His dad and I read the article and we talked about it last night. We discussed what we learned and how Luke could put some of the ideas into action. It was a great conversation and made me feel that Luke was bouncing back. As we told him, bad things are going to happen, but we don’t have to dwell on those events. We can use them to grow. To be honest, he wasn’t too thrilled with that idea (honestly, I don’t like that idea either. I hate it when people ask me “What do you think you can you learn from this situation?” especially when I’m still struggling). But, he went to bed knowing that Kevin and I love him and support him and will always listen.

2015-xmas

Isn’t that what we all need to bounce back? A listening ear, an empathic heart, words of encouragement. With the right tools and community, we can be like Tigger: “Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs!”

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