I have guilt. I have guilt over lots of things, but right now I’m talking about the guilt I feel whenever one of you pretty people feels compelled to comment “You’re such a good mom!” or something similar, because I know the truth, you see.
And the truth is not some sort of hipster self-deprecating “Oh no I’m not” thing where I just feel that it’s not edgy enough to cop to being a decent parent, either. I mean, I am a decent parent. Sometimes I’m a GREAT parent. But most of the time I’m a decent parent. And occasionally? I am a terrible parent.
The “you’re so awesome” accolades invariably seem to come within a day of me doing something cringeworthy and then I think to myself, “Lord, if only they knew.” But most of you do know, I suppose, because most of you are parents as well. And that means knowing that sometimes you say or do things of which you’re not proud, and often hoping that your children’s memories are short and their resilience is endless.
Right now our family is stressed out on several fronts, and that means I am not always the parent I want to be.
In this corner, we have Monkey—darling, sweet, perfect-just-as-he-is Monkey—and a nearly completed school year that makes me want to set myself on fire and throw myself into oncoming traffic for not having FIXED IT, somehow, sooner. So after a tremendous internal struggle, after months of research, after countless “discussions” (which is what we parents call them when we don’t want the kids to know we’re actually arguing), I came around to a place where I am ready to say yes to homeschooling.
We would just have one more meeting with the school—the last ransom negotiation, I called it—to lay out what we felt he’d HAVE to have to succeed next year, and then when they said no, we could go on our merry way.
Except that… they said yes. (Technically, I guess they said, “Yes, but,” though that’s a splitting-hairs conversation for another time.) And Otto had asked me, several times, “What are you going to do if they say yes?” And every single time I had laughed and said, “They’re not going to say yes.”
But they did. And now I have no idea what to do.
So there’s that.
In the other corner, we have Chickadee—lovely Chickadee, who emotionally/socially is just starting to come into her own, but who’s still mired in medical mystery between Season 3 Of The Mystery Rash and some perplexing anemia—and after a ridiculously long string of doctors’ appointments and drama, we may be on the cusp of figuring out what the heck is going on with her. That’s good news. Even better news: One Particularly Scary Disease we were worried about has been ruled out, so we’re feeling a little relieved.
Now, the thing you have to know about Chickadee and this skin thing is that she complains bitterly, ALL SUMMER LONG, about how it’s itchy and it hurts and she looks terrible and she hates it. And truthfully, I don’t begrudge her that one bit; it IS itchy and it hurts and she DOES look terrible and of course she hates it. But (you knew there was a “but” coming, right?) she also seems unable to connect the dots between the various doctors’ appointments and tests and the possibility of getting better.
Put plainly: She also complains bitterly about missing school to go see the doctor, having to put any kind of medicine on her skin, having to take any kind of medicine, submitting to any exams, etc. And then there is the matter of having her blood taken.
This is where we get into me being a lousy parent, by the way. You might want to grab some popcorn.
Maybe it is unreasonable of me to expect Chickadee to—for lack of a better phrase—kind of man up about this stuff, but she’s 12 now, and I know she understands that yes, no one likes going to the doctor and no one enjoys wearing a paper gown, but this is all to help her get BETTER. She’s not a toddler; she’s a young woman, and a bright young woman at that, and yes, we’d ALL rather be reading books on the beach and eating ice cream, but this is how it is. I definitely get exasperated with the whining when she seems to be just kind of complaining for complaining’s sake.
But the kicker here is that Chickadee has a needle phobia, and GUESS WHAT! When you have a mystery medical condition they often want to take your blood. Multiple times. And I have tried prepping her ahead of time and I have tried not telling her until we got to the lab, and no matter what I do, Sam-I-Am, my darling daughter turns into a squalling toddler when the time comes.
And I turn into the world’s worst mother.
I KNOW it’s a phobia. I KNOW that that means her reaction is irrational, but that she can’t help it. I KNOW that she is genuinely terrified.
And after a hard month and a stressful week and a long ride into Atlanta and consultation with three different doctors and lots of old unanswered questions and a smattering of new ones, I just. didn’t. care.
“Stop it, Chickie,” I sighed, as she began sobbing the moment her butt hit the chair at the designated station. The tech was looking at her in surprise as she wailed, just sitting there, untouched.
“I’m going to use a butterfly,” the tech told her, showing her the tiny needle. “It’s the smallest needle we have. And my daughter is older than you, now, but she always hated having her blood taken, too, because she was scared, and I’m the only person she ever lets do it, because I make sure it doesn’t hurt.”
Chickadee barely looked up, and continued sobbing. The tech talked her through assembling the test tubes she needed, then took a look at her arm (while Chickadee cried), and I held my daughter’s hand and kept saying really helpful things like, “You’re being silly, working yourself up like this” and “It only hurts because you’re upset, not because it ACTUALLY HURTS.” You know, I was a paragon of support and all.
And then the tech put the stretchy tourniquet around Chickadee’s upper arm and my daughter BEGAN TO SCREAM. Like a caged animal being poked with a stick. And I wasn’t sympathetic, I was mortified.
Three other hospital employees rushed in to see if someone was being murdered. I hissed something about how she needed to STOP IT RIGHT NOW and also that one of these people would hold her down and she didn’t stop flailing around, and as she quieted just a bit, the tech stuck the needle in, and she screamed some more.
Screeched like a banshee.
I put my free hand over my eyes. I had a brief memory of the “stop crying or I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT” days of my own childhood. I tried to will myself to count to 10.
“I’m going to go get you some cookies.” I opened my eyes to see a nice older woman leaning in towards my daughter, who was still carrying on. “What kind would you like? We have Oreos, and animal crackers, and I think some graham crackers. Tell me which one you’d like to have when this is all done and I’ll go get them.”
The tech was halfway through her tubes. Chickadee slumped against the chair, tears streaming down her face, wailing, “Make it stop. Stop. Please stop.”
“Oreos, animal crackers or graham crackers?” I snapped at her. “This very nice lady wants to reward you for acting like a feral toddler. PICK ONE AND SAY THANK YOU.” I was horrified by my own voice.
“Oreos,” she squeaked. “Thank you. Is it almost done? Can it be done?”
I rubbed her opposite arm in weak apology while the cookie lady left. She reappeared about ten seconds later with two snack packs of Oreos and set them on the table in front of my daughter. Then she grabbed a chair and scooted up so that they were knee-to-knee, and leaned in again.
“I got you two packages because they’re kind of small,” she said, matter-of-factly, as Chickadee continued to whimper. “And I did NOT get them for you to reward your behavior—” here she paused to look meaningfully in my direction, with a glance that may or may not have conveyed that I was, you know, being a bitch “—but because I REALLY like your haircut.” She finished with a grin and a wink, and Chickadee managed a weak smile in return.
And then the last tube was filled, the needle came out, and it was over. She sniffled through her Oreos and I apologized for not being more sympathetic. She sniffled some more and offered Otto a cookie.
“What can I do?” I finally asked her. “I don’t know how to help you when this happens. I get frustrated because I feel like you could choose to try to work through it, but instead you make it a hundred times worse for yourself by getting so upset. So tell me what I can do to help.”
“You can’t DO anything,” she said. “I hate it and that’s all. You can’t fix everything, Mom.”
Sage words from someone who gets hysterical at the sight of needles.
Today I’m sitting with the mantra that I can’t fix everything. There’s a lot that needs my fixing, yet, and plenty more than just needs me to stop being a jerk even when I’m frustrated, but today? I’m taking a break. Love doesn’t mean fixing everything. Sometimes it just means sitting with those you love and being okay with what’s broken.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. I hope you get a break this week, and that it gives you the time to recoup and rethink and be better, going forward.