“I hate this house!” he yells at me. “You’re the worst mummy I ever had!” he throws in before storming out of the room. “Well,” I say, struggling to find the words, “I’m the only mummy you’ve ever had,” finally landing on the only words that come to mind, hiding the tears in my eyes.
The cause of the anger tonight? I wouldn’t let him have a snack before bed. I should explain that Mr. T is not supposed to eat right before bed, one of the repercussions of his health issue is that he suffers from reflux and he’s not supposed to eat and then lay down. My decision not to give him a snack minutes before he was heading to bed was not the act of an evil mother but truly for his own good, to prevent him from suffering late into the night.
Sounds like an argument with a teenager doesn’t it? Nope; just another disagreement between me and my six year-old.
I sit on the stool, blinking back tears, as I hear him stomp up the stairs. I don’t know what to do. I know that giving in isn’t the answer, that it will only teach him to throw a tantrum every time he doesn’t get what he wants. Yet my instinct is to do just that, to call him back downstairs and give him his snack. To sit across from him at the table as he munches on milk and cookies and bask in his smile.
I want nothing more than to make my kids happy. I love to give them things that will make them smile, a little cookie before dinner, an extra cuddle during stories or 5 more minutes of bath time. It makes them happy and that makes me happy.
Isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do? Make their kids happy?
As I hear him complaining in his room and I contemplate giving in, it hits me. At the precise moment when I’m about to let his tantrum win, I realize the most important job I have is not about me making them happy. The most important thing I can give my kids is the ability to make themselves happy.
I don’t want their happiness to be wrapped up in other people. I want them to be confident enough to go after what they want themselves rather than rely on someone to hand it to them. I want them to understand that life doesn’t always work out exactly as you had planned. Sometimes you don’t get what you want. There are times when, regardless of how badly you want something, you just can’t have it.
I won’t always be around to make sure that life works out in their favour. They have to learn to deal with that.
My job is to give them the tools to be able to know what it is that will make them happy and to give them the skills to learn to get it for themselves all while teaching them how to deal with the disappointment if it doesn’t go as planned.
My instinct, as a mother, is to give in, do whatever it takes to make my kids smile. My heart wants to bend over backwards to make them happy. My head knows that I would be doing them a disservice if I did that every single time. A couple of extra cuddles at bedtime and just one more story shows them I love them. Giving them everything they want each and every time shows them I don’t think they are capable of achieving their own contentment.
The best gift I can give to my children is the ability to find their own bliss. I may need a gentle reminder, the next time he claims to wish that I wasn’t his mummy and I want to give him everything his little heart desires. I may need a little reminder that this is all a part of his journey the next time my heart breaks just a little bit.
We spent our first holiday as parents in the NICU.
It was Thanksgiving and as the big day drew nearer, my hopes of sharing a turkey with all the fixings around my own dining room table began to fade and the sadness consumed me.
I couldn’t imagine building traditions or creating memories in a hospital. What business did I have enjoying a festive meal while my baby lay in an incubator unable to eat at all? Our family wanted so badly for us to enjoy the holiday but how could we explain that we didn’t have it in us to celebrate?
Thanksgiving Day came and I woke up with a heaviness in my heart. Then, in walked my parents brandishing a full turkey dinner; cranberries, stuffing, and all. It brought tears to my eyes. We set up in the hospital cafeteria and the nurses allowed us to bring Mr. T. He slept peacefully in his infant carrier right beside us as we gave thanks for our many blessings. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief because, though it wasn't as I had imagined our first holiday to be, we were celebrating together and that was all that mattered.
The holidays are probably one of the most difficult parts of the NICU journey. It is not where you imagine spending your very first holiday as a family and the last place you want to celebrate. Spending Christmas in the NICU can involve feelings of guilt, loneliness and failure. It can feel terribly isolating knowing that the world is out there celebrating while you are inside suffering.
It may seem like giving gifts are not the priority and it might even seem inappropriate but there are some presents that can make the holidays special for a NICU parents in your life:
Make a planned visit to the hospital. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to have unexpected visitors but having people that care about you by your side during these days can make the world of a difference. Bring them a meal, a magazine, or just some company for an hour or two. People tend to get very busy over the holidays and visitors may start to thin out. Just a short visit can help parents feel less alone and can give them the little boost they just may need.
I loved reading to Mr. T. when he was in the hospital. We kept a stack of books near us at all times. It helps for babies to hear their parents voices and reading to them is such a great way to let your voice be heard. Some of our favourite stories were I’ll Love you Forever by Robert Munch, Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss and The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman.
I still remember the first time I was able to touch Mr. T. after his surgery and I unwrapped his little hospital blanket and saw the Sick Kids stamp on the sleeper he had on. It made me terribly sad to know that he had all these beautiful clothes hanging in his closet at home and the only thing that fit him was a hospital sleeper. When we finally received clothes small enough for him it somehow made me feel a little less institutionalized and a little more like a mother. A gift of preemie clothing could help a parent feel like they have some control in a situation where they don't have much.
Consider making a donation to the local children's hospital or NICU. Most hospitals have charity gift giving options available such as http://getbettergifts.sickkidsfoundation.com// which makes it so easy. Your donation can be a monetary gift or even items such as toys for the playrooms, a rocking chair for the NICU or art supplies for art therapy. To this day it always touches me when someone makes a donation to Sick Kids with us in mind.
When Mr. T. was in the hospital there were so many tasks at home that remained at the bottom of our priority list. Drive by and shovel their driveway, pick up the mail or offer to do a load of laundry for them. It might not seem like a huge gesture but it will give already overloaded parents one less thing to worry about.
The NICU is not where any parents envisions spending the holidays but sometimes life leads us down these unexpected paths. If you have friends or family who will be spending Christmas in the NICU, consider a small gesture to let them know they aren't alone. We ended up creating wonderful memories that Thanksgiving and every holiday since I've hugged my kids a little closer and given quiet thanks for their health.
We made a decision for my son. The decision was made by myself and my husband, after lengthy research and much thought. Discussions were had amongst ourselves, with our doctors, with family members and friends. It wasn’t an easy decision and it was not made lightly.
The decision that we made as parents is not anyone else's to judge, and I do not regret our decision at all, not for a second.
The CDC has just released a study which claims the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks and, as you can imagine, this has opened the floodgates for harsh, hateful and judgmental comments surrounding the often controversial practice.
This isn’t new - this bashing parents for having an opposing point of view - yet I have never seen a parenting issue cause such discord. I read the comments, the bitter words being tossed about with such ease, and I’m shocked. Adults calling one another names, taunting, throwing out harsh accusations of abuse and questioning someone’s ability to parent because of a decision they made with their child’s best interest at heart.
The insults cut so deep that I was afraid to write about it at all.
Yet I chose to go ahead, not because of my opinions regarding circumcision, but because of my deep and firm belief that we should feel safe to make choices for our families without the fear of being attacked.
There will be times in our children’s lives that we have to make tough decisions for them. Decisions that will impact them forever and we all hope that we make the right choice. This is one of those times.
Parenting beliefs such as co-sleeping, whether to breastfeed or formula feed -and yes, circumcision - seem to bring up such intense opinion and emotion. In my research I’ve heard passionate arguments from both sides of the issue. For every argument there is a rebuttal. For every man you show me that is circumcised and wishes he wasn’t there is a man who wasn’t circumcised and wishes he was. For every pro there is a con and for every con there is a pro. These can be very confusing and difficult decisions for parents to make. Yet for some reason we feel that we have the right to criticize another parent for choosing a path that they feel is best for their child. We don't have to agree however we do not have the right to shame someone for their beliefs. We do not have the right to bully someone because they made a decision that doesn't agree with our philosophies.
Could it be that our bad behaviour says more about our own insecurities than it does about the decisions made by other parents? Is this classic bullying behaviour where we make ourselves feel better by tearing someone else down?
The issue of circumcision, for me, isn’t up for debate. It’s a personal decision that a parent must make only after receiving the proper education and information. I don't claim to know the answers or what is best, and I give other parents that benefit as well. Just as with any other parenting decision, I made the best choice for my family as I assume you have done for yours.
We are all on this journey together and it is tough enough without your peers tearing you down. Each of us live our lives differently and we all have our own beliefs and values. The one thing we all have in common is that we are just trying to do the very best for our children - something we may do well to keep in mind before making comments.