I was working last week with a lady with metastatic cancer – a nasty glioblastoma that has robbed her of her ability to remember new information. Our therapy was a last gasp attempt to help her regain some independence and quality of life before she was discharged home with 24 hour supervision. And hospice. This will likely be her last summer. She’s not very old. She’s too young to be facing her last summer. Such is the curse of cancer. She is long-divorced, and her only son lives a few states away. She has some delightful and loyal friends who visit and help take care of her.
Our most recent therapy session together included one of these dear friends, “Julesie” as she called her. They go way back, to when they lived in apartments across the hall from one another and had screaming and inconsolable newborns. I always try to find a balance between the value of what I provide in my therapy vs. the value of what visiting friends bring. In cases like this lady, I decided that a visiting friend was much more valuable. She was able to tap into long-term memory, something I don’t have the context to stimulate, and it was much more preserved than her short-term memory was. They laughed about the trials and tribulations of having “screamers” for children. My patient chuckled, “Oh, he was a HORROR!”
“He was a horror.” It’s not a phrase you’re allowed to say about your children these days. I mentioned that. “Oh, it’s something you could only say amongst your friends.” My patient said. Her friend agreed.
Has it always been a dirty little secret? Because if you say it publically now, you’re labeled as a Bad Mother. An Ingrate. Unable to appreciate your “spirited” child. Selfish. Uneducated. How dare you attach such an unkind adjective to your child?!?! But certainly we all think it. At least once. We logically know that a strong personality will serve our child well when they’re adults. But right now, it just feels like they’re being jerks. You can go a long time before you find another parent who will admit it. “Yes, I love my child, but she can really act like a pain in the @ss.” And until then, you feel awful for thinking it.
This is the dirty little secret of parenting. You love your children. But they can be “horrors”. Admitting this doesn’t make you love them less. Admitting this is acknowledging the challenge of your job. You must demonstrate unfailing love and a semblance of patience to a creature who does a great job of acting horribly towards you. Yes, it’s in their innate nature. Yes, it’s “developmentally appropriate”. Yes, they’re born sinful creatures, just like we are. They need to experience forgiveness and grace from us before they can begin to understand the concept and that it’s something that comes from God. But let’s be honest. Only God is an unending well of forgiveness and grace. The rest of us struggle to provide it on a daily basis. I personally struggle on a minute-by-minute basis.
I think this should be another tenet of the Sorority of Moms. Don’t judge a negative statement of another mom about her child. You know you think it from time to time. The mom who says it is just being honest enough with her feelings to utter the words. Good for her. Encourage her. Support her. Help her laugh about it. The true tragedy is when the mom doesn’t realize that children can be jerks and she thinks she’s doing it all wrong. We need to let other moms in on the secret. ASAP. Our kids can be jerks. So can we. Refusing to admit it doesn’t make it not true. Let’s forgive ourselves for thinking it just like we forgive our children for doing it. Let’s expose the dirty little secret.