We are on the other side of Ev’s surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids and I am very pleased to say that we survived relatively unscathed. At the pre-operation with the surgeon, he told us that the recovery period lasted a minimal ten days. Ten. Days. That part alone blew my mind. I had no idea. It meant dividing up time off work between the two of us and seeking coverage from family and friends for gaps. He also told us that we will have to bring out our “best parenting skills” because with children as young as Ev recovering from surgery, many issues arise. Some examples he gave were making sure he ate and drank enough to stay hydrated, and should stay pretty low key activity-wise. I heard some horror stories from other parents, and warnings that the recovery wasn’t pretty and very painful (literally for the patient and figuratively for the parents).
We really braced for the worst. Other then what you would expect from an uncomfortable 4-year-old, for the most part, everything went smoothly. So here are my five tips for surviving post-operation with a young child. These might also apply to life in general, but especially helped us during this time:
- Pick your battles. Ev was very uncomfortable at times, making him irritable, so we didn’t battle over anything unless it was absolutely necessary. We decided to let him eat anything he wanted to eat. Period. Generally, this was fine because his go-tos were jell-o, apple sauce and smoothies (made with frozen fruit, Greek yogurt and honey), but there were a couple of days when all Ev wanted was ice cream and we let him have it. There were other times when we weren’t so flexible, such as fighting with him to take his pain meds.
- Present a united front. I told Ev he couldn’t go outside and play when I was with him. (It was too good an opportunity for his energy level to rise and I worried about something bad happening like his wounds starting to bleed). I was very sure to pass that message along to my husband, knowing full well that Ev would ask him the moment I was out of the building. The more consistent we were, the more Ev knew exactly what to expect, which helped decrease the possibility and/or level of irritability.
- Sleep when the patient sleeps. Remember back when our little ones were brand new infants and everyone told us to sleep when the baby is sleeping and we didn’t listen? Well, this situation is similar. Except, do it, this time, if you have a sick or recovering child in your care. I’d argue that our roughest points were during the night. Ev would wake up in pain because his mouth had dried out and/or his pain meds wore off and often it would take a bit for him to fall back asleep. That threw off his sleep schedule and he took long naps during the day. I did too. And I’m grateful I did so that I was rested and therefore more compassionate during Ev’s wakening hours.
- Be prepared. Stock up on soft foods such as apple sauce, yogurt, jell-o, pudding, ice cream, scrambled eggs (Ev ate a TON of scrambled eggs). We also got some cheap indoor activities, such as coloring/sticker books, crayons and play doh. We rented some movies Ev hadn’t seen yet from the library. Granted, most of these items are specific to a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy but for all ailing young children, the more you can have on hand, the less stress it will cause because you won’t have to run out or make do with what you have. That being said, there are just some things you can’t prepare for.
- Get out of the house. This one is two-fold. I got Ev out of the house as soon as he was showing some improvement because his illness started turning into cabin fever. Our trip was to Target because even though I did my best to be prepared and buy several bottles of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, Ev started refusing it and I needed to get a chewable version. But also, you as the caregivers should try to get out of the house for a bit to recalibrate and spend some non-patient directed time together or alone. In both cases, it goes a long way to keep moods lifted.