Last week, my ex Husband and I went to court to end all terms of our divorce and after fourteen years since splitting, it was a welcome end. After initially meeting with a Mediator, a woman came in to introduce herself. She said she was the Supervisor and that she had to come out to introduce herself and tell us that in all her years of doing her job, our kids are the youngest she’s ever seen all on their own. She congratulated us for doing a great job in raising independent, self sufficient kids and told us that clearly, we had done something right. It was a fantastic end to this chapter in both our lives.
Which brings me to why I’m writing this post. I saw a woman in one of my Facebook groups post about how her being ill was affecting her children. She couldn’t do what she wanted to or be there in the capacity she wanted. She asked what I think all of us who are chronically ill, who have children, think about endlessly: is my illness ruining my kids’ lives too?
Given the coincidental timing of these two things, it really got me to thinking.
My kids are 22, 20 and 19. I was fortunate enough to not get sick until my youngest was 12. For that Blessing, I will always be grateful. But here’s the thing: I have really great kids and they are all on their own, with the exception of the youngest, who still lays his head on a pillow at his Dad’s. My eldest, 22, works in construction and also does maintenance and upkeep on the rental property he lives in for the Landlord. My Daughter, 20 (21 in three weeks) lives with her boyfriend out of state and works as a Medical Secretary while learning Medical Billing. My youngest, 19, is in college for Robotics Engineering. They are happy, healthy, loving and independent adults. And they became all of these things while having a chronically ill Mom.
As Mom’s, we have all of these grandiose ideas and ideals of what and how we want to parent. Parenting is our identity, for many of us, and whether our kids “make it or break it” sits entirely on our shoulders. Getting sick upends all of those well intentioned plans and forces us to parent in the capacity which our body allows us. And I’m here to tell you that you CAN still raise great kids, even if you get sick.
There’s alot I can’t do. And silently, still even now, I admonish myself for not being able to and wishing I could. I don’t go shopping for the day with my Daughter and then out to lunch. We no longer play tennis. For a long time, money was so tight, it affected everything. We don’t hike or go to amusement parks. And when it came to the kids moving, they had to rely on their Dad.
BUT……there is alot I can do. I am here for my kids. Night, day, rain or shine. I love my kids unconditionally. I celebrate their wins and cry their losses with them. We have great family dinners, even now that they’re moved out. We relish in our holidays and the kids adore our insane Easter Egg challenge with like 400 hidden eggs (Hubby does this). I give them advice and they tune me out. In most ways, despite my being ill, we’re just like everyone else.
I won’t say that it isn’t heartbreaking when my illness interferes with things it shouldn’t. Especially when I’m only 44. I have cried more than my share when everything always need to take my being sick into consideration first.
But here’s the biggest thing: my illness has also made my kids better. My kids learned how to be independent; because they had to be. My kids are not selfish. My kids empathize with those that are disabled. They are wise, compassionate, helpful, loving, patient and understanding beyond their years. They have learned not to think of themselves first and are always there to help others.
I am incredibly proud of them and all that they have become. And they did this while I spent my life on the couch.
Love your kids. Listen. Even when they hate you, be there for them. Parent them, don’t friend them. And all of this can be done from your bed or your couch. The act of loving them and being there for them will always outweigh the fact that it is being done from bed.
All My Love, Stace