Seeing the Hat

We were sitting in a restaurant enjoying our lunch when a man came in on crutches. He was missing one leg and had prosthetic arms and hands. One of my kids yelled, "Hey, Mama - LOOK at that guy over there!" My brain readied itself for the possible situation at hand and my lovely child continued, "He has the coolest hat!"

Someone recently asked me if life is different for my children because of my chronic illness.

Life is different for them due to a lot of things. We homeschool, so I guess that could be considered different - but many of their friends are homeschooled as well, so they don't see it as different. My oldest has Aspergers - but he's just Alex to all the other kids, so his differences are normal to them. My children are different from many of their peers in that they are responsible for helping keep the house clean, but not only because I am unable to clean up after five kids, but because they are a part of this family and we all live here. They are able to cook and enjoy it – Coren makes a mean crockpot chicken! The three oldest can change diapers, make up a bottle of formula or breastmilk, and take great joy in entertaining babies and toddlers. My children are different because they live in a gluten-free home and deal with various food allergies ... but then again, they have friends who are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or have food allergies, so all those are within their realm of normal as well. My kids have friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, and Christian, so they don’t necessarily feel different because of their own religious beliefs. 

Through my chronic illness my children have learned patience, because it takes me longer to do some things or they need to wait to do something like go to the museum or science center until I'm having a relatively good day. They have learned compassion and empathy and to be considerate of how others are feeling, physically and emotionally. They find the beauty inside of people and accept differences in outside appearance as what makes people unique, not as something to judge. My children have learned that a person in a wheelchair or using canes is the same as a person walking on their own two feet. Perhaps most importantly, they know that everyone has a bad day or two - a day when they need space and time and perhaps to cry a little ...or a lot. They know life isn't all roses and lollipops and purple bunnies hopping to and fro - and that that's ok. There will be other days to see rainbows - and if not for the rainy days, we wouldn't have the rainbow days at all.  

Perhaps the person was talking about the days chronic illness is at its worst - perhaps she was worried if she can be a "good enough" parent as a parent with a chronic illness. I do have days when I don't feel like or can't do much of anything. Sometimes those days are the days my kids like the best - cuddled in bed with Mama, reading books, playing card or board games, watching documentaries, looking up strange and interesting stuff on the internet, and just chatting. These are actually the days when I’m more focused on them because the housework and volunteer work have to wait. It's the quality of the time you spend with people that counts, not so much what you can or can't do with them.

So yes, my kids are different, in part because of my chronic illness– but in a good way, I hope. Am I a "good enough" parent in spite of my chronic illness? I think I'm actually a better parent thanks to my chronic illness - a parent who sees value in each moment and in each child, and has the time to live the moments instead of rushing through them...and a parent who defines herself by who she is, not by her illness. I think I'm doing a pretty good job- after all, I have kids who see the hat, not the disability.


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