Only make promises you can keep

 

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


 

This month’s carnival is on the topic of  special needs.  I have the blessing of a healthy home.  My kids have no major health issues and I’m thankful to only have the minor inconvenience of teething symptoms or colds here and there.   To be completely honest, I’m more grateful than most for the health of my family because I had the unique experience of growing up in a home with a chronically ill parent.  My home was a natural home and so life was lived with the goal of not only controling, but healing my mother’s condition with raw juicing, supplements, trips to the naturopath and the absence of wheat, dairy, sugar and meat in our diet.

My mother was diagnosed with Lupus as a young adult.  Her journals from that time period have detailed records of what she ate and how she felt as a result.  It seemed that every little stress in her life impacted her health and I find it amazing that in the early months of her marriage to my father, her symptoms were much abated.  In light of that, I do truly believe in the power of true joy and peace.  She had a rather uneventful pregnancy and delivery with me, but was unable to produce milk.  Considering the medications she was taking at the time, I’m ok with her “giving up” and feeding me formula at 2 months.  I’ve had my own struggles to produce enough milk, so her journal entries are heartbreaking for me to read knowing how painful it can be to feel as though you aren’t caring for your child.

A few years later, my mother had a seizure and went into premature labor with my brother.  He was born 10 weeks early and due to their complications, both my mother and baby brother spent many weeks in the hospital.  Lupus is an autoimmune disease.  As with any chronic illness, there will be periods of time when the patient is healthy and gets to live life normally, and then there are the inevitable periods of time when the patient cannot escape from the reality of how ill they are.  In my mother’s case, when she was healthy, she was healthy and we got to live like every other family out there.  But when she was ill, she was very, very ill.

As a result of her illness and me being the oldest child, I had an early education in housekeeping.  My mother taught me at a young age how to do the laundry, clean the house and make simple meals.  My grandmothers would come to help out and drive us to our activities while Mom was sick or in the hospital, but I do remember feeling a little more in control of life since I knew how to care for our home before I was even old enough to stay home alone.  When I was a freshman in high school, my mother became ill enough that she needed to be on dialysis 3 times a week.   In the next few years, my mother was hospitalized on a regular basis and spent countless hours getting treatments or at doctor’s offices.  My senior year in high school, the adoption of my youngest brother was finalized and we added another member to the family.  With the addition of my youngest brother, I got to watch my parents go back through the parenting journey with a toddler and learned a great deal about not only my parents, but how illness changes your perspective on what’s really important.

Exactly 2 months after my wedding day, I was called to the hospital at 5 o’clock in the morning only to arrive moments before they declared Mom dead.  It will be 6 years this May and as I raise my own children, I often wish I could talk to Mom.  She kept a journal detailing our life and the excitement of raising two small children while struggling with her health, but she never wrote down what the solution to a toddler problem was.  My son has the same temperment as I do and often behaves just like Mom wrote that I did… but I have no idea what she did to help diffuse situations.

Even though I am in excellent health and I take specific precautions to make sure my health doesn’t slide, I always have in the back of my mind the possibility of not being around to see my children grow up.  I realize it’s a bit morbid, but it’s been my reality.  In the event that I am not around, I  have very detailed journals, baby books, photo albums and blog entries that are dedicated to my children’s lives.  I never want there to be a question that could have been answered if only I had thought to write it down.  My husband and I have a will and provisional instructions written.  I never want my daughter to have to choose songs for my funeral or wonder if  I would have rathered a scripture from Psalms instead of Romans in my eulogy.  Most of all, growing up in a home with the special circumstances has made me a very purposeful parent.  I make a great effort to create special traditions and rituals.   We make a big deal out of birthdays because I celebrate the chance to have my children and husband in my life for yet another year.  I say “I love you” dozens of times a day.  On the rare occasion that I leave my children in the care of others, I am prompt when picking them up again.  I know what it is like to wait in fear for a parent wondering if something is wrong or if they’re just late.  And I never make a promise I cannot keep.  I know, on a very raw level that I am not in control of how life will play out.  As much as I want to promise I’ll be here in the morning, I never do.  I promise to always love my babies and right now, while they are so little, keeping things in the now is the best thing for them and for me.

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)

25 thoughts on “Only make promises you can keep

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  9. Alicia @ My Baby Sweets

    My father’s autoimmune disease didn’t become symptomatic until I left the house for college – literally, the day I moved out is the day he got sick. I didn’t live with him while he was sick, so I remember him as being well. My father did live to see my wedding day, but not to see my children born. He was an attachment parent, without knowing the term. I am sad that my kids can’t know him, but I do sometimes think to myself, what would my dad do in this situation? He didn’t leave any journals for me to read his thoughts, so I just have my memories, and my step-mom’s. It must be very nice to have your mother’s journals.

    Reply
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  14. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

    Laura – your mom would probably laugh and admit to not knowing all of the answers either :) What a wonderful gift you are giving to your children – they will cherish those journals someday, and hopefully you’ll be right there to read through them together.

    Reply
  15. Ashley

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother; my father died when I was a kid, and I know exactly how that is to realize there’s a big person your children will never know. (Blessedly, my son has an amazing grandfather in my stepdad.)

    Hearing about your mother’s journals is beautiful, and what a lovely tradition to carry on. And I admit I laughed when you mentioned that your mother didn’t write down any solutions. She sounds amazing.

    Reply
  16. Ellen Stumbo

    I have really appreciated the stories from this carnival from the perspective of a child growing up with a parent with a disability. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can only imagine those times where you wish you could glean from your mother’s perspective.

    She sounds like a wonderful, selfless person. What a testament to her character that regardless of her disability her heart was open to adopt a child. I love that!

    Reply
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  19. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    What an amazing story, both your experiences and your mom’s. I’m so glad she left you her journals, but I can only imagine the ache of wanting to ask her something and having her not be there. It’s really sweet that you’re trying to fill that hole for your kids, just in case. I totally get that. We’ve had a lot of talk about death here with Mikko lately, and I also have realized I can’t promise that death won’t touch our family anytime soon (although I hope not!). Thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Zairyta

      hehehe, I get so much bad advice all the time! But the ones that aawyls take the cake come from my MIL. For instance, keep a baby in a playpen all day without picking them up and never let them learn to crawl so that they are easier to manage, only let them out when they have learnt to stand and walk and knock the playpen over! Can you believe that!!! Or how about, tying a toddler into a cot to stop them throwing the bed clothes off so that you don’t need to have heating going all night. I think that she was lucky that laws were so lenient 40 odd years ago. With some of the things older women have told me to do, its a wonder any of us made it out of childhood alive! haha.

      Reply
  20. Julie Keon

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I am sorry that she is not a part of your life now to offer her words of wisdom as you navigate this parenting path. I really enjoyed reading this post. I love that you are keeping detailed journals and records of your life. I hope your children will never have to depend on them.

    Reply
  21. Katie

    Beautiful post. I am so sorry your mother was so sick. Thank you so much for sharing your story. My daughter is three, and was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis right after her second birthday. As you probably know, it is also an autoimmune disease. It has been a very hard year and I am praying we can get her into remission. Raising a child with an invisible illness can be very challenging as people simply do NOT GET IT. So I educate, educate, educate. I also happen to be a speech pathologist and work with children with special needs, which I LOVE. :)

    Reply
  22. Momma Jorje

    Wow. My mom was sick, but I didn’t have quite that stress level. Most of her hospital visits were from accidents (falling). I did get nervous when she went up stairs and such…

    My mother loved to tell her grandchildren “Mommy always comes back,” but it does make me think of the risk of Mommy NOT coming back. We, too, tell each other very often that we love one another. We have not, however, made any plans for when we die. I’m not very good at planning for the future. My friends and family know I want to be cremated, that is about as far as I’ve gotten.

    My mother had already paid to be cremated. While my siblings and I did have to plan her memorial, we were comfortable with that. I strongly believe the memorial isn’t FOR the dead anyway, it is for the living. It (the arranging) was something that brought us together. It was a bittersweet experience.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I hadn’t expected to find others (2, so far) that approached this topic from the same angle as I did.

    Reply
  23. Lizo

    hehehe, I get so much bad advice all the time! But the ones that alyaws take the cake come from my MIL. For instance, keep a baby in a playpen all day without picking them up and never let them learn to crawl so that they are easier to manage, only let them out when they have learnt to stand and walk and knock the playpen over! Can you believe that!!! Or how about, tying a toddler into a cot to stop them throwing the bed clothes off so that you don’t need to have heating going all night. I think that she was lucky that laws were so lenient 40 odd years ago. With some of the things older women have told me to do, its a wonder any of us made it out of childhood alive! haha.

    Reply

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