Yesterday, I had two kids home from school. Mister had a cold, sore throat and could barely keep his eyes open and Miss had been wiped out by too many late nights along with a cold.
While you’d expect sick children would by definition be too rundown to engage in mortal combat, you’d be surprised! In their weakened states, they almost killed each other, trashed the house and were absolutely obnoxious!! At my wits end, I rang my husband at work and asked him to come home. After all, I’d been up most of the night with a dreadful cough and all this coughing has left me with dreadful backache. I mean, if ever there was a case where Mary Poppins needed to fly in with magic umbrella, this was it.
It is the first time in longer than I can remember that I actually asked Geoff to come home but when he reminded me that he was two hours away and in the middle of touring a construction site hard hat and all, I took a deep breath and decided to “mum up”. Surely, I could mount an effective counter-attack and neutralise the little peoples? After all, as I am reminded, I am the adult. Surely, size and experience should be enough to combat youth, sleep-deprivation and impulsive thinking?
A little bit of green paint can go a very long way.
I don’t often write about the more negative aspects of my children on my blog because I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. While I might vent with a friend, it’s quite another thing to plaster their more dubious antics on the world wide web. I might as well stick up a billboard on the main street. That sort of thing is private, not public and children actually have rights to their privacy…even if a family member is in the media in any capacity. Too many writers exploit their children.
At the same time, I also don’t want to create the wrong impression. That just because they might look cute in the numerous photographic images I’ve plastered on my blog, that they’re perfect. Indeed, like all kids, they have an instinctive eye for mischief and a young and speedy mind and body to swoop into action before I’ve even sniffed trouble on the horizon.
Moreover, I don’t want to convey the impression that our kids just coast along having a Mum with a chronic life threatening disease and that there isn’t any fall out. Because there is.
At times, they really don’t cope and nor should they be expected to be okay all the time…just like the rest of us. They get angry. They get upset and not all of this manifests itself in what I’ll term: “socially unacceptable behavior” but is really a cry for help or at lest, a bit more attention. If adults struggle to survive in a pressure cooker, how can a child? Yes, we get on with it but there are times when the pot explodes and everything goes splat on the ceiling. We are anything but superhuman.
While some children compensate for a sick parent by becoming overly protective and in effect little adults, my kids seem to react by running amok and regressing, sometimes quite significantly. So, instead of being helpful, they’re quite dependent and want and demand everything done for them. When this doesn’t happen, which is inevitably the case, there’s payback…anger, tears, screams.
You get the picture.
As you can imagine, when the kids erupt like this, things can get incredibly difficult, especially as this tends to happen when my health deteriorates and I’m least able to handle the meltdowns. To be perfectly honest, at these times, I wish I could just stick them inside an envelope, whack on a few stamps and post them somewhere else. I know that sounds bad but when you’re struggling to walk, breathe and essentially stay alive and you’re kids are going feral, what can you do? We have friends and family who help out but they can’t live your life. Moreover, although these meltdowns are very intense, they’re usually short and life soon returns to some kind of equilibrium.
Over the last few months, things have been brewing with our son. He’s seen stars and vomited. Had bad headaches. A dreadful asthma cough and really not looked very well either. He’s missed quite a lot of school.One morning when he couldn’t put his finger on his nose and was seeing stars, I took him off to Emergency. Nothing showed up and the vomiting stopped but he still hasn’t been himself. Then, yesterday, I found a tin of salmon with knife marks jabbed through it and it looked like it had been mauled by a shark with metal teeth. This precipitated a huge worry. Why couldn’t he just use a can opener like anybody else? Why doesn’t he know how to open up a can after helping out with cooking? He’s also a Scout. Now, I understand that scouting can make you more resourceful and inventive but surely a Scout can open up a tin by themselves?
One mauled and mutilated tin of salmon…none other than John West: the Best!
I’m sure you can understand my concern!
Not only had he opened the tin with a knife but he’d also spilled the stinky fishy oil over the kitchen table when I was still sorting through cookbooks and a cookbook my grandmother had helped put together back in the 1950s had been smeared with the stuff.
I was livid.
You can also imagine after working so hard on the decluttering and kitchen renovations, that I was just a little bit precious and didn’t appreciate a tornado of a kid thrashing through the place.
But what can you do? Padlock all the cupboards? Lock him in his room? Lock myself in my room? You can also take your kid to a supposed expert but I’d already tried that and it was inconclusive. He is actually having some counseling about what’s been going on. You see, it’s not just me who’s been sick but his sister’s been in hospital and his aunty has cancer and Grandma was in hospital for tests yesterday as well.
As I said before, you can’t expect kids to cope any better than an adult when they’re submerged in “shit”. It’s to be expected that when a kid is hurting, they’re not going to be smooth sailing. More than likely, they’re going to bite the hand that feeds it and that’s not easy to take.
That said, we all have to get on with it. Keep going. When you’re living with a chronic ongoing situation, you can’t keep dropping your bundle and have any hope of getting anywhere. You have to keep fighting straight through that savage head wind and keep going. Surprisingly, this resistance actually builds you up and makes you stronger and we’re meant to take it on. We’re not designed to slump in a chair and give up. Yet, that doesn’t make the process “fun”.
Anyway, after more downs than ups during the afternoon and a few stern words from Dad who wasn’t happy being called at work or finding the house in such a state, Geoff had a chat with the Mister.
Geoff had Mister on his knee and started asking him questions and talking and eventually, the story tumbled out. Mister was worried that I was going to die. That having a chronic illness means that you’re dying.
Finally, we had something concrete, which made some sense.
It also turned out that he couldn’t get the can opener to work.
Mister spontaneously made a heart with his Incredible Hulk green hands. It really touched my heart!
As you could imagine, we’ve had many talks on this subject over the years with the kids. As my health is pretty precarious even though I’m currently in remission, I don’t lie to them and promise some rosy-coloured vision of the future…especially as we’re currently in Winter and a chest infection is the most likely thing to cause me grief. I had pneumonia two years ago and it almost got me so I know life is fragile but it’s like that for all of us. Anyone, could be run over by that proverbial bus and it’s all over in an instant. It’s just that we’re more conscious of the fact.
Mister’s relief was immediately evident, although he still had trouble sleeping last night. These are big concepts for anyone to process…especially a kid who really needs and is still dependent on his Mum. I’ve also heard that having a parent hanging in the balance like this can be worse than the actually loss of the parent. There’s that omnipresent shadow. The knife hanging above my head. The boogey man, in the form of my illness, is always there making faces and scaring us. Yet, as close as it’s been, I am still a few steps ahead. Indeed at the moment, aside from the cough, I’m doing very well. However, the kids aren’t always in synch with my health status and can pick up on some random thing we’d never considered and react, leaving us wondering why they’ve lost the plot.
Also, in addition to living with my health issues, they also have the normal everyday issues kids have, although these can also get magnified when they’re not handling things well.
So, when you see my children mucking up, or other kids for that matter, instead of judging them or their parents’ disciplinary enforcement, perhaps you could ask a couple of simple questions:
Are you okay?
What can I do to help?
Another good idea is to run through all the people they can turn to for support. They can draw a hand on a piece of paper and write those name on each finger. Having a list of contacts on the fridge can also be helpful. Our kids really don’t seem to know important contact numbers other than 000 (our emergency number).
I’ve jotted down a few things here which have helped us get through those really tough times. They’re not an instant fix but over time have helped them and me.
Suggestions for Helping Kids Get Through a Rough Patch
• Some kids appreciate more physical contact such as hugs, sitting on your lap, holding your hand even though they might be older. Physical contact is a powerful way to convey love.
• Go for a walk or bike ride etc (exercise).
• Get a bit of sun. Sunlight helps you cheer up.
• Find a way to have a laugh. Laughter is known as the best medicine. A
• Play with a friend and or a pet.
• Write in a journal and/or draw some pictures.
• Listen to music.
• Having a break from the situation by going to a friend’s house or doing after school activities.
• Become an active member of an out of school community such as Scouts, Church etc where the kids can feel love and support beyond the family unit.
• Having an outlet for expressing anger such as drumming, jogging, boxing. Getting those emotions out is very cathartic.
• Talking regularly with kids about what is happening and keeping them updated. This is very easy to overlook and can be seen as protecting them but kids have good ears when you don’t want them to listen and it’s better to have a more structure conversation, rather than them picking up on bits and pieces and potentially getting the wrong idea.
• I haven’t been very good at this but meditation and slowing down anxious breathing is fantastic and helps keep a level head. The best way for me to do this is to go for a walk along the beach and focus on the water or by doing my photography. Focusing on a point is a relaxation technique.
In the meantime, if you know a kid who is going through a rough time and seemingly spiraling out of control, please don’t judge or condemn them. Perhaps, all they’ll need is a hug or a compassionate ear.
All our children need love, compassion…especially when they might “deserve” it least! Indeed, that’s when we need to push through the pain barrier with that desperate determination of a professional athlete and keep striving with everything we’ve got…including our community, which is so often right under our nose when we just have a look!
Our children, and especially our youth, are too precious to ever give up!
Love & Blessings,
This photo was taken when I was on weekend leave from hospital back in 2007, when I was first diagnosed with dermatomyositis.