I was over at Jen Singer’s Good Housekeeping blog, reading her recent post titled “A Mother’s Day without Heartache” and it got me to thinking about all the things that parenting is about and I came to one conclusion – parenting isn’t perfect. For me, the hardest part of being a parent is watching my children see me go through a painful life with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia. For Jen, her kids watched her fight cancer and because of her blog at Goodhousekeeping.com, I, and many others, read about Jen’s journey with cancer. Reading Jen’s blog for the last two years, I can tell you that Jen is a true survivor with unimaginable and inspiring strength. In this recent post, Jen shares with us a photo of her at ten years of age and blogs about being a little girl and how simple things seemed back then.
In Jen’s own words: “Most of all, I wanted to remember what it felt like when I was a kid, long before I faced illness and heartache and death. My own kids have no such luxury. At just eight- and ten-years-old, they found out what it was like to nearly lose their mother to cancer, and they are forever changed for it. Not worse, not better, just different. Still, when I look photos of them taken before I had cancer, I feel the same way I do when I look at this shot of me. I want to hug them and make it all go away.”
I understand that parenting isn’t perfect. No one can be claim to be a true parenting expert. We all learn as we go. So, I learn everyday and I watch my nine year old see how I have changed since my diagnoses of RA, Fibro and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and as much as I wish I could protect him from seeing the person I have become, I know that I can’t. I also know, hypothetically speaking, that my now eight-month old won’t have the same mother my nine year old did. By the time the baby is nine, I will have had to change my lifestyle to accommodate the progression of RA and the worsening of my Fibromyalgia pain. I may not be able to enjoy the same activities with my baby that I did when my nine year old was younger and emotionally, I am not the same person I was back then. I get that but I wish that it were so much simpler.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia have changed me and I hope, for the better. I now know that I don’t have to be a perfect parent, if such should exist, but I do have to be a confident one. I have always tried to show my strength to my children and I, like anyone, have faced great losses in my life, but I know that my weakness is more evident these days. Maybe, it is that I have gotten older or maybe it is because the world out there scares me. I sometimes feel that the world I grew up in is so much different than the world my children are growing up in. Quite often, my insecurities show and, though no easy, I do my best not to show my children my weaknesses. Other times, I can be strong and feel that I can conquer anything, whether it is addressing an issue at my nine year old’s school or listening to him as he confides in me about the things that I upset him. (You would be surprised all the things that upset tween boys.)
My nine year old recently told one of his teachers that he knows that his mom’s bones hurt and that he wished that they didn’t. He also wondered if there was a medicine that would stop them hurting and if there isn’t, perhaps, when he is older, he could invent one. Of course, this brought tears to my eyes. Actually, I broke down because if anything could make weak, it would be my love for my children. This also made me wonder whether I am strong enough to conquer anything and everything. Am I, as a parent, required to be unbreakable or always be confident about myself, about my parenting skills and about preparing my children for the world?
Jen Singer noted her post that her children “are forever changed for it (because of her cancer). Not worse, not better, just different” and I, too, realize that my nine year old has changed, not better, not worse, but just simply different. Who ever said parenting was easy lied! We are all learning as we go and I think I have learned more from my children – my sons (my own boys and my stepson) and my daughters (who I haven’t held in eight years and have only recently been in contact with after eight years of no contact) than I could have learned from my own parents, other parents and even the so-called parenting experts. I once told my sister that I learned love – true and pure love- from my children and I don’t ever stop believing that.