“Why are you sick again, mommy? I hate you!” my 4 year old exclaimed recently because I was having difficulty getting up to make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Initially the words stung more than the pain in my back. But considering he is 4 and understanding that it is not me he hates but the illness that is changing his world a bit helped to put his words in perspective. Notice I wrote “his world” because for the most part kids truly think the world revolves around them!
Let’s talk parent guilt. If you have any chronic illness and you have children, you have most likely experienced a feeling of guilt because at some point you couldn’t make it to the dance recital, karate class, or soccer game. You couldn’t attend a field trip, throw the ball around, or cook a decent meal. You couldn’t take them to the park, beach or baseball game. You forgot to buy them shoes that actually fit, sign a permission slip or send in snacks for the school party.
Before I became ill, the needs of my boys were met almost instantaneously. I see now that perhaps it was a little too quickly. I am a very attentive mom and, before the pain and weakness, very active so I was able to hover and slave and well…spoil. It wasn’t always a coddling thing. Sometimes I gave them what they wanted quickly just to shut them up. Don’t judge. If you have kids, you’ve been there!
That day, my 4 year old said something that opened my eyes to a little monster who I created! My friends, through prayer and God’s grace, I have a new perspective on “parent guilt” concerning my illness. Our children do not need to grow up in some pseudo perfect existence where their needs are met in an instant and their parents bend over backwards to fill their social calendars.
Parents, my friends, we don’t need to feel so guilty if we can’t physically do something for our kids or with them! I have learned that it is actually good for them to experience a little disappointment in life because it’s REAL. Life is not Disney World and the sooner they learn that the better equipped they will be to handle bigger challenges they will surely face.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you just sit on the couch and say – yo kid you’re on your own! But I think it’s important to discuss with them in a “kid-appropriate” way about your illness and explain why you may not be able to do something or attend an event. Another more practical suggestion is to come up with things you can do together such as movie night, reading books, computer games, or good old fashioned talking – imagine that! Also, ask a friend or family member to be your “stand-in”, someone who would be willing to go to the recital or game and cheer them on!
Journey with me.