A few weeks ago I sat down to fill out some forms for Mary Tyler Son to attend a local park district’s summer camp program. As I was reviewing them and signing and marking off boxes, it hit me. It hit me hard. I have a healthy child.
A healthy child is not something I take for granted. I know better than most that a healthy child on Monday does not guarantee a healthy child on Friday. We are one scan, one errant cell, one unexplained headache, one pre-occupied crossing of the street away from our healthy children turning into unhealthy children. That’s the nature of parenthood, but most parents can ignore that precipitous truth. Blessedly.
These forms that took approximately three minutes to complete for my son would have taken hours for our daughter. They would have required addendums and a health history and doctor’s phone numbers, and permission slips, and medical clearance.
Being part of the mom blogger realm has given me a unique perspective, too, in the raising of all the children. I follow bloggers who write about their child’s cancer, their child’s autism, their child’s diabetes, their child’s mental illness, their child’s allergies. Having been part of that world for so long, being the parent of a gravely ill child, I have an empathy and deep respect for those parents who wake up, day after day, and do it again.
There is an isolation that is so complete in parenting a sick or special needs child that it’s hard to explain accurately. When you meet folks in the same boat as yourself, there is an automatic kinship, a fraternity, that transcends small talk and chit chat. They get it. You get it. Relief. No pretense.
So there at the dining room table, filling out my forms, I had a sense of overwhelming gratitude and appreciation. I am mothering two healthy sons right now. Sure, there is the occasional ache, fever, or runny nose. Like today. Mary Tyler Baby has a sore bum that makes diaper changing a tragedy for him right now. Mary Tyler Son had a terrible night of insomnia and today has a cough, runny nose, and slight fever. We are taking it easy today, catching up on pbskids.org and Minecraft and naps and household tasks. Honestly, I am so grateful for a day at home. We’ve been on overdrive lately, squeezing out the last bits of summer before the heat turns to cool that turns to chill that turns to freeze.
I know, though, that in the time it takes to click “publish” on this post, our lives could change. I live with the ever present fear of that and the harsh knowledge of what a child’s illness can do to a family. Our biological son, despite the random nature of his sister’s brain tumor, is at a higher risk than other children of a cancer diagnosis himself. Our adopted son, healthy as a rosy cheeked, pink lipped horse at eleven months, might hold some mysterious and harmful genetic secret that we know nothing about.
Yes, these are occasional thoughts that cross my mind.
I relish these days of health, knowing that so many others don’t enjoy this bounty I have, even tenuous as it might be. As I sit here click clacking away on my keyboard, I know that not ten miles away, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is bursting with sick children and the parent’s that care for them. I know that there are neurologists and oncologists and cardiologists and immunologists that take weeks to months to book a visit, as their clinics are full of kids waiting to be seen.
Living with and losing our Donna means I will never forget those children, those parents, those doctors, those nurses.
Today, if you, too, are lucky enough to be parenting a healthy child, give a silent thought to our collective good fortune. Think for a moment about those who are not as fortunate. And if you are one of those parents who is burdened to near breaking with a child who is not as healthy as you wish them to be, know that someone, somewhere, is click clacking on her computer, thinking of you, your child, your family, your medical team.
Kraft och omtanke to you, and deep respect and kinship. May you find the strength you need to do it again tomorrow.
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