Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reflections from a Tuesday: Who I am

The "old soul" Isaiah

Yesterday I was in the kitchen putting together something for dinner while Isaiah and Zachary sat at the table coloring. Zachary decided to jump down from his seat and run laps around the house. (Not unusual, if you know Zachary.) Isaiah, instead, engaged his mom in a little conversation.

"Mommy?" he asked with doe-like eyes, "I need to tell you something. I wasn't such a good listener in school today."

I turned around and looked at his face, apprehensive yet brave. Well that was honest. "Yeah, bud, I heard. Your teacher said that you guys were all horsing around a lot today. She called it 'Monday Fever.'" You have to give the kid credit for honesty.

"I'm sorry, Mommy," he said softly while peeling the paper off of his crayon.

"Listen, buddy," I replied with a smile, "We can just make tomorrow a better listening day, okay? And you know what? I really appreciate you telling me the truth about your day."

He looked back at me and flashed all of his baby teeth. "Mommy?" he spoke while peering at me with those same wide eyes. What is he about to say now? I turned around and raised my eyebrows. "Mommy. . .are you proud of me?"

Without thinking, I quickly answered, "Am I proud of you? Isaiah, I'm always proud of you, and so is Daddy. Always. And there is nothing you can do to make me not be proud to be your mom."

"Even when I'm not a good listener, you're proud?"

"Yep, even when you aren't a good listener. I don't really like it and I feel a little sad when you aren't a good listener, but I'm still proud."

He put down his crayon, planted his elbows on the table, and rested his chin in both palms. "And you always like to talk to me and you always love me?" Oh lawd. What is this about? I decided to stop what I was doing and walk over to the table. Wiping my hands on a towel, I scooted onto the edge of the chair across from him.

Isaiah is what we often refer to as an "old soul." He often says and does things that are much more characteristic of someone older and more experienced. Even though most of the time, he can be counted on to behave exactly his age, I am often floored by his abstract thoughts and mature emotions. Definitely what folks would call an "old soul." I had a feeling this was one of his "old soul" moments.

I looked in his eyes and then quietly spoke,"Isaiah, you know what?"

"What, mommy?" He looked at the paper on his crayon for a moment, but something must have told him to stop and make eye contact with me.

"I always want to talk to you, and I always want to hear what you have to say. There is nothing you can't tell me or daddy ever. Ever. We always love you and always want to listen to you. And we are always, always proud of you. Always." I nodded my head for emphasis all the while keeping my gaze fixated on him without blinking.

Suddenly, he erupted into tears. I mean full on, can't get a breath crying. Oh my gosh! What's wrong with my baby? Who hurt him? What does he have to tell me? I put my arms out and gestured for him to come to me. The pang of fear quickly rose in my heart and created a thumping in my chest that was deafening. Oh Lord. What? Oh no! Has someone or something robbed my baby of his innocence? Did we do something wrong? Is he okay? I wondered if I'd just given him the green light to share some awful secret that he had been holding inside. . .something he'd been afraid to tell me. He climbed into my arms and squeezed me tight, crying a little harder as I hugged him.

"What's wrong, sweetie?" I queried trying desperately not to sound too concerned. What is it? I wiped his face with my hand. "Baby, why are you crying? Tell Mommy. Why are you crying? Tell Mommy what's wrong." Tell Mommy. Please tell Mommy before she has a heart attack.

He looked up at me and shook his head. Again the suffocating fear, but it was immediately quiesced when he said, "Nothing is wr-wr-wrong, M-m-mommy. I'm n-n-not crying 'cause I'm sad. I'm cr-cr-crying 'cause I'm happy. Mommy, I'm h-h-happy." He then wept a little harder. Oh my gosh. I felt my eyes welling up. He looked at me, caught his breath, and then went on, "I'm happy I can tell you anything and I'm happy to be a part of this family." Then he cried a little harder. Part of me felt ashamed for thinking the worst. . . .

He went on to tell me that he learned in school that some kids don't have a family and that one of his friends in school only has her mommy but not her daddy. And he is glad to have his mommy, his daddy, his brother, and all of the rest of his family. He said they probably feel sad and some days want their daddy. He spoke with such amazing clarity--it was surreal.

"Baby, you know what they call that?" I asked while pulling him into my chest.

"What Mommy?" was his muffled reply.

"They call that 'blessed.'"

We sat there hugging at the table for a few more minutes, both of us covered with tears. It was a moment to savor. Every part of it--including free-spirited Zachary marching around the table singing at the top of his lungs,"Doe a deer! A female deer! Ray a drop of golden suuuuunnnn!!" Yep, I am savoring it, and being truly present as much as I possibly can.


Sometimes I worry that I'm not getting it all right. Not getting the doctor-thing right . .not getting the mommy-thing right. . . not getting the wife-thing right. . .not getting the me-thing right. Just when I start to get a little overly self-deprecating, something like this taps me on the shoulder and says, "Just keep doing you."

Get a life. . . .

I often tell my residents-- work hard, honor your patients, learn as much as possible--but be efficient so that you can go home to your family and your personal life. Being a physician, especially a Grady physician, is a ministry in itself. But being my best, most available mother, my most loving and supportive wife, and my most authentic self -- now that is my true calling. I make every effort to model priorities to my residents and students through the decisions I make for my family. I speak of my husband and my children often. I implore them to "do something fun" on their off days, and never hesitate to share with them when I have done the same. "Get a life," I tell them, "and that's an order, not a suggestion."

Just as we tell our learners that patients have lives outside of the hospital and that we should always consider this, so do physicians. We are doctors, yes. But we are also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, and friends. By honoring ourselves and remembering to strive for some kind of balance, we ultimately honor every patient we touch. I believe that.

Yeah, so the other day, my four-year old son was crying. . . .because he was happy. What that tells me is that I'm getting something right . . . .and it tells me who I really am. I am my authentic self-- which isn't half bad. I am Harry's wife and I am Isaiah and Zachary's mom. And finally, along with some other things, I am a Grady physician, who happens to genuinely find joy in every one of these roles. That's who I am.

Do you know what they call that? They call that "blessed." :)

Me doing the "Mommy-thing". . .and loving it


  1. Yeah... you got me with that one! That is SO Isaiah. I can just picture you two having the conversation. I am often amazed at some of the talks I have with Isaiah. I love when he's explaining something to me... It always brings a smile to my face.

  2. This story made my heart just melt. Kim you are awesome!!!!!

  3. From the deck of the Poop,

    This was a great read. I have known for a while that my Zayman is not your everyday run of mill kid. He has an insight on things that never cross most kids mind. I am Proud of Zayman. And of course my Zacky-Poo.



"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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