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Mommy? Will I have a sickness in my brain like daddy?

Yesterday, we talked to the kids about the virus in depth. We did the little activity where we put black pepper in water and then covered their fingers in soap. When they put their fingers in the water it dispersed the black pepper *germs*.

We talked about why we couldn’t visit Granny over Spring Break, why we would be staying home more, why schools were closed.

Lorelai then went on her merry way, giggling about washing her hands. But Judah went and sat on the couch, contemplative.

I’ve known my son for a while now. Ever since Jesse was diagnosed with a mental illness, we’ve especially kept our eye on him.

OCPD is believed to run in families, mostly impacting men. It is also believed to be an illness that can be mitigated in childhood. If you know what to look for, a child can be given specific coping mechanisms early on so when they become adults the effects are less severe.

Parenting a child who shows signs of anxiety will be different. There’s a lot more talking. A lot more explanations. A lot of whys and what-ifs.

The other day when we were at dinner, Judah stopped eating and set down his fork. “Mom, Dad? Sometimes I feel like I’m 10 years old.”

Jesse and I looked at each other.

Judah lowered his eyes. “Do you guys ever feel like you’re older than you are?”

My eyes brimmed with tears.

Because yes. Yes I do. And so does his dad. It’s why I believe we connected when we were teenagers. Two old souls in teenaged bodies, ready to start a life.

“All the time.” Jesse and I said together.

So when Judah sat on the couch looking down after our conversation about the virus, I quietly took my place near him. Waiting.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“Are we going to die?”

“Someday.” I laughed. “But from the virus? Most likely not.”

I explained to him how the virus especially impacts the elderly and those who already have health problems.

“So why do we have to stay inside?”

“Well, because even though our family isn’t really at risk for this virus being dangerous, we can still get sick and accidentally get someone else sick. Someone who isn’t as healthy as we are. That’s why we didn’t want to see Granny this time because she’s 91 and we want to protect her. And your aunt who’s going through chemo.”

Judah asked more questions, every answer making his shoulders sag more and more.

The boy has been through a lot at age 7. He’s been through a Category 5 hurricane and living with a sick parent.

We’ve never, ever shielded him from the truth. We believe it’s because of this that he asks intelligent questions.

“Mommy? Will I have a sickness in my brain like daddy?”

“It’s a possibility. If so, it will hopefully be easier for you. Because your daddy has a diagnosis, we can catch signs in you early. Life may be a little different for you, but you will have more resources and more help. Daddy and I are figuring this out as we go, and you will have access to all of that knowledge. But there are some superpowers to OCPD, too.”

“Like what?”

“Well. Your daddy has always been able to be 3-times more productive than the average person. He’s an amazing problem solver. He’s brilliant, but the kindest man I’ve ever met. He knows what it’s like to struggle and so he’s not judgemental. Plus, he’s always, always on time. He’s honest, you always know where you stand with him, even if you don’t like it. And he’s immovable in his convictions, at least until evidence is presented to the contrary. All of these things attracted me to him.”

“But what about the bad thoughts?”

“Right now, we finally found a medication that takes them completely away.” I smiled. “But he’s left with all the superpowers.”

I watch my son grow, as he uses words in his vocabulary kids don’t normally use. I watch him choose science documentaries for entertainment purposes. I listen as he asks his dad questions about physics.

I sit with him as he worries about big world issues. Issues 7-year olds usually don’t concern themselves with.

“Mommy. There’s a lot of trash in the ocean.”

“There is.”

“It’s really bad for the planet. I’m worried about the sea creatures.”

“I can understand that.”

“One day. I’m going to build a machine to get all the trash out.”

“I believe it.”

I’ve learned I can’t get my son not to worry.

I can’t try to stop him from potentially having the same illness my husband has.

And I can’t spend my days worrying about it either.

I don’t know what kind of issues my son may have to deal with when he’s older. And I can’t hover over him, trying to placate the big feelings and thoughts he has.

I can teach him how to channel worry into action, though.

I can get my fear and pride out of the way to have the hard, honest conversations.

I can remove the fear of the unknown by empowering him with resources and knowledge.

I can acknowledge that he feels like he’s 10 years old without dismissing it as silly, knowing I can’t keep him from growing up faster than I would like him to.

I can keep myself from trying to protect him from all the bad in the world.

I can teach him how to face it all head-on.

Yes, that. That I can do. 

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