My son was three when the pain started. I’d always been an actively involved parent. I took pride in my parenting. Sitting on the floor playing games with him, reading stories with him on my lap. Going for walks, taking him to Gymboree classes. And suddenly that needed to stop. I could barely walk and I was in agony most of the time. I went through a barrage of doctors all trying to figure out what was wrong with me. And in the midst of all the tests I went through and all the doctors I saw, I needed to find a way to still be a good parent to my little guy. I mourned the things I used to be able to do. But it just wasn’t my reality anymore. Here are some things I learned along the way:
- Don’t try to hide it. Children are smart and intuitive, they know when you’re hurting. In the beginning if my son asked me what was wrong I would say nothing. But that only ended up confusing him. When we started to open up a dialogue about what I was going through, I was surprised at how much he understood even at three.
- You can still do the things you used to do-just differently. Since I could no longer sit on the floor with him, he would sit beside me on the couch or in the chair beside me. Since he could no longer sit on my lap, he would sit beside me as I read, or stand beside my bed if I couldn’t get up at all that day. I found other people to take him to Gymboree or music lessons when I couldn’t. Since I was home with him during the day my husband made lunches for us the night before.
- When it was time for school, I drove him instead of walking. When I couldn’t drive, a neighbour or a family member would take him. It became important for me to let go of control and be ok with relying on others for help.
- Asking for your child’s help. When my son was old enough I was able to ask him for help if I needed it. Careful to not take advantage, but there were days that he was home with me and I needed his assistance. I think he felt good to help out and I believe it helped to teach him responsibility. He’s been making his own lunch since he was 6.
- Empathy. I know seeing me in pain was hard for him. I also know that it has helped to teach him empathy. He now wants to be a doctor and help others who are in pain or suffering.
Parenting in pain is not easy. There are still times when I can be overcome with guilt and wonder if I’ve given him the best life I could. But when I look at the evidence all around me I know without a doubt I’ve done the very best possible. And really that’s what our children deserve-our very best no matter what that looks like. So, don’t be hard on yourself. Take each day as it comes. Forgive yourself. Let go of what might of been. Enjoy the time you do have and make the most of each moment.