sick kids

Not too long ago, a friend lovingly and candidly confided in me about dealing with some "snarly emotions and the strong desire to just get away" from her sick kid. As I read her words it was as if they were streaming from my own lips, and I cried with the knowledge that I wasn't the only mother—parent—who had had such feelings. Her words have allowed me to forgive myself. I imagine her message to be helpful to any parent, and so I asked her if I could share her insights. She agreed, and this is what she wrote:

Although my little guy was sick for only a few years, it wore on me in ways I did not really appreciate or acknowledge at the time. I didn't know he was sick (duh! it's so obvious now!), but even after I did, I simply was not always my best self. A euphemism for "I was sometimes a horribly scary person."

It's been [some] years. I haven't really thought back on all of the expectations I had for myself as a parent, and the ways I disappointed and even shocked myself, repeatedly. I can now see myself with some compassion, if not quite forgiveness, but the fact that I judged myself so harshly then made everything harder. I lost my temper, sometimes I threw things, sometimes I walked away virtually screaming in frustration. I said things I did not mean. I hardened my hands and handled him and me and the world unkindly out of sheer frustration. That became part of an unending cycle some days. I can't explain it, but I naturally judged my behavior, and then hating myself sort of tied into behaving in ways I hated even more. It didn't have to be abuse to be bad.

Maybe this was just my thing. I don't know, and I hope you will forgive me if I've assumed that you have ever felt these things, or behaved in anger, but it was and sort of still is my own secret shame. I simply could not always be loving. Sometimes, I could not even be nice.

I had no partner who either understood or cared to see what it did to me, but I know that that would not have been some magic balm. I was exhausted at all times, I hated my life sometimes. I hated the choices I was having to make in deference to a child whose needs I could not meet or even comprehend, then I hated myself for being selfish, and wanting something different. I hated that I could not change things that I wanted to change, including, or maybe mostly, myself.

My stuff with [my child] was different and quite finite compared to yours with Calvin. I know that. People would sometimes try to be understanding and give advice about what they thought was going on with [my child], and I'd want to scream "YOU DON'T GET THIS! IT IS NOT LIKE YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY!"

I—obviously—don't get your life, because it's not mine. Maybe you cope better, or differently, with the stress of demands you can't quite meet. For me, the part I remember, all too well, is what it felt like to lose it in the presence of my beloved child, whose needs could consume ALL OF ME when I had nothing in there to give, and desperately needing just a weenie teeny bit for myself every now and then, and then beating myself up for not being the saintly super mama, and repeating...

From my perch here ... I salute you, and however you cope. I'd do it with a margarita, but don't have them around nearly enough. And it's early.

I guess I just hope you do not hate yourself the way I did for being human. I hope you are finding compassion for yourself that I just couldn't, and get and take and wrestle the time every now and then to recover a bit from the unceasing demands of a needy child. And I hope you will let me know if there is anything I can do that helps in the day to day. I never asked for help, and I didn't take it when it was offered, and in retrospect that was falsely noble and horribly stupid of me ... I'm offering and you should ask if you ever need a hand. Or a margarita.

my sick kid


  1. Thank you, Christie, for publishing this letter.

  2. Those words were/are desperately needed by at least one other mommy...

    thank you for sharing them.