Uh oh. The boy got paint on his swimshirt while I was leading an Art-n-Nature gathering last week week. Dad, playing with camera settings, got a picture of the shirt coming off...
... and another of me taking a break from guiding kiddoes in a negative-and-positive space painting exercise in order to go wash the shirt out in the ocean water while my boy began to play battle games on the beach.
Once the paint had been rinsed out of the shirt, I offered it back to my son. Being a "sensory kid", he did not want to put the wet thing back on though. So I told him to be sure to put sunscreen on instead.
Unfortunately, my boy did not listen to me, and I had no idea that he had not asked Daddy to help him spray his pale white shoulders, back and torso until several hour later when I noticed his back getting just a little pink. I was not too concerned though since he looked more white than pink.
Seriously, my boy did not look burned most of the day. Just take a look at this photo of him standing proud after conquering the fear he had of floating down the current of a "river" to the ocean right towards the end of our excursion.
Not so pink, right?
Well, sunburns do tend to appear more inflamed after the fact... And that was the case with my son.
Shortly after the proud river-floating moment, we left the beach, went to Adoration, and then headed home for dinner and showers. That was when -- YIKES!-- my son's white-with-a-little-pink upper body transformed into an inflamed and stinging red "tee shirt". Poor thing! After suffering through a shower, he could barely handle me slathering him with aloe. Each touch brought a yelp.
My boy's riotous red "tee shirt" sunburn made it next to impossible for him to sit comfortably, never mind lay down to sleep. So it was that he came to me with begging, wailing tears at bedtime. "Mom, please ask people to pray for me!"
Immediately, my daughter took up her rosary and began to pray for my son, and, heeding my boy's request, I jumped on Facebook to ask for immediate prayers. (I honestly have no idea who paused to take the photos - my daughter or my other son.)
The power of other people's prayer truly helped my boy's tears to abate and he began to quiet and pray again, too.
Then, although still in great physical discomfort, he was finally able to get to sleep. Praise God!
Over the course of the next couple days, the natural repercussions of not listening to Mama when she said, "Put some more sunscreen on," became even more challenging for my boy. His sunburn stung and made him feel stiff. By the second day with it, my son found it painful to move his arms, because doing so stretched his stiff, burned skin too much. Thus, he took on a t-rex sort of posture whenever he had to use his arms. He looked so odd and uncomfortable with his elbows pretty much frozen to his torso while he simply used his forearms to do whatever was necessary. My heart ached for him.
By the third day with his sunburn, my son's skin was so inflamed, dry, and tight that it was all that he could do to be personable and bear keeping a tee shirt on for two hours while we had guests at our home. Then, after they left and his tee shirt came off, his crying commenced again. He moaned that his burn seemed worse, not better, and he began begging God for relief "even if this is my own fault." He also cried for me to help, but what could I do? Each time I gently rubbed aloe or a salve of essential peppermint and lavender oils in a coconut oil carrier on him that night, he cried out as if I was torturing him.
In fact, my son cried even when I was not applying salves onto his thirsty sunburned skin. The experience of being burned was just too much for his sensory system and he literally carried on for hours on end, praying aloud, tears rolling, yelps punctuating his speech. All I wanted to do was to hug him, but I could not even do that. Hugging simply hurt him too much.
So, I finally persuaded my son to at least climb onto my lap, his body stiffly sitting up so not a single part of his back would touch me as I lay one of my hands low around his lap and placed the other atop his head where it would not hurt him. In this position, I began coaching him to breathe and taking time to pray over him and with him. This helped for a bit, as did hearing that more folks online were praying for him followed by us listening to calming music. Even with all this, it was such a long night for him!
The next day was rough, too.
But, finally, as last Sunday unfolded, the raw, stinging and stiffness of my son's sunburn subsided. He came to me to ask me to make another salve with the essential oils a friend had graciously gifted us for him, apologized for not listening to me a the beach, and asked me for a hug. As I held him, he winced a bit, but thanked me and pointed out that he could at least be hugged (gently!) again. His prayers were being heard and healing was happening.
Then, later in the day, our family went on a hayride together at a farm that we are members of. As I leaned around my son to snap a picture of my husband and younger son, my other hand brushed my son's shoulder. I did not notice it right away. Then, my boy commented, "Mom, do you notice something special?" I could not guess what he was referring to, so he finally told me, "Your hand, Mom. It's on my shoulder and I am okay." Wow! The natural everyday act of my hand on my son's shoulder had become something to celebrate, because just 12 hours prior, when I had inadvertently touched his shoulder, he had screamed in pain.
Amazing how my son's one act of disobedience in not putting on more suncreen when he was told to do so and my own distraction from following up on whether he had, indeed, applied more sunscreen resulted in so such pain, yet such lessons, too. Through his experience with feeling the burn, its pain, the stiffness, and the peeling, as well as through asking for and receiving prayer and healing, my son learned a lot. I did, too.
This week, my son came to me and said words he has never spoken before, "Mom, can you please put sunscreen on me." More than that, though, he has been making a better effort toward overall obedience. He has mentioned how grateful he is for others' prayers. He has shared with me prayers he had hitherto silently prayed every night, asking for healing and safety for others. He has relished the simple ability to be hugged and held.
I have been wowed by how many people kindly offered prayers and words of support to my son. I was moved by my son's appreciation for being able to feel my hugs and touch again. I remain grateful for the blessings that beat discomfort.
Yet, I am also filled with sadness. What about the parents whose children have not listened and have suffered worse natural consequences? What about those parents who, for whatever reason, can never touch or hug their children again? What about those people who can find no solace during physical pain because they have no faith? What about... so many people who are hurting at this very moment.
My son and I are abundantly blessed by general good health, an amazing network of praying friends, and a faith that turns us to God both at moments of petition and those of thanksgiving. Others, I know, do not sense such graces poured down on them. For those people, today I pray. Please join me in doing so...