“Mommy why does daddy forget things?”
It’s a question I’m not alarmed by, especially from my five-year old. Answering however is a whole more difficult. Daddy has a brain injury isn’t exactly the perfect answer for an inquisitive child looking for in-depth answers as to why daddy sleeps longer than most daddy’s or cannot play with him like he wants him too because he can’t focus long enough, or that he picks fights even at times, dropping himself to the same level as our kids because relating to children isn’t always an easy scenario for FD.
FD (Forgetful Dad) we call him is an amazing father. He truly loves the kids, but sometimes relating to them is like two kids fighting over a toy car. Only one will win and the other will be left in tears, usually with mom (me) sorting out the aftermath.
It’s not his fault, really. When Corey sustained his brain injury he was 18 years old. He came out of his coma not remembering much. He had to grow up again, just like the rest of us. But unlike us — he has no past to reflect on. He has no memories to draw from like: why he got punished when he did not listen to his parents, consequences he faced for doing things wrong, or what it was like growing up and being a kid.
So when it comes to parenting, FD is at a big loss.
When he sees our five-year old melting down or our twelve year old whining because he can’t go to the skate park. Daddy doesn’t quite understand because he doesn’t remember being a kid. He also has a hard time relating to his emotions which is an even bigger barrier, especially when kids are overly emotional at times and sometimes for no apparent reason.
For Corey – each day is a new day. Every moment, a new one. He can be playing a game with the boys, get up and go to the washroom or grab a drink and leave the game, forgetting what he was doing almost instantly. He can often get after the boys for something they did, or something he remembers them doing. Problem is it didn’t happen. The mind can play tricks with the best of us and forgetting things is something we all do. Now imagine the brain having to work over-time just to try to remember.
What the real issue is for the boys is — Why does daddy forget me?
It’s hard for kids of parents with a TBI () to understand their parents do not mean to forget them. In fact that is the last thing they want to do. For FD it’s difficult. He doesn’t want to go to bed at night and forget the days events. Watching Trace learn to ride a bike or that wicked goal JJ saved during his game which Dad watched but it happened yesterday. The fact it’s his son’s birthday and he forgot to call… or that he said he’d play outside with the boys but is just too tired to think straight.
Every day is a struggle… more and more I’m having to teach the boys how they can help their father be a better parent.
The hardest part of loving a person with a TBI is trying to help others who love them understand they may not react the way you expect. Many people see their behavior as excuses when in fact that is the furthest thing from the truth. It’s not their fault what they remember and what they don’t. They don’t mean to hurt anyone or forget and they definitely wish they had more of a connection to their emotions, so they could think and feel like everyone else.
I married a good man. A strong man. A caring man. A good father. He might look and act normal like the rest of us — but he struggles and all I know is that we live as a family, we work together as a family, we accept what comes at us as a FAMILY. One day at a time.
Parenting with a brain injury isn’t easy. But it can be done. With the right support, help and understanding of those around you. Life isn’t perfect and neither are people. But it’s our imperfections that makes us individuals. It’s our imperfections that makes us human.
“Mommy daddy loves us right?”
My heart sinks a little as I pull Trace into my arms. I know it isn’t easy. We went through this with JJ already and now it’s Trace’s turn to try to understand why daddy forgets and what we can do to help him along the way. Sometimes I wish it could be different. Sometimes I wish I could make it easier for both the boys and for my husband.
“Of course he does baby. That’s the one thing daddy doesn’t forget.”
And he doesn’t. FD loves us. With everything he has, all of his heart, whether he remembers us, the time we spend together or not. He never forgets to love us. And that is important than anything he could remember.