I’m a terrible parent. No really, just listen up.
I promise, I’m not doing the whole “oh no I gave my kid a frozen pizza ONE FUCKING TIME, aren’t I the worst?” after casually mentioning how I make all my pasta sauce from scratch using tomatoes from my container garden.
No, I’m not doing that thing. I hate that thing.
I yell at my 4-year old son all the fucking time. And I feel terrible about it afterwards. I shouldn’t be yelling, mostly because my son almost died two years ago.
It wasn’t exactly poetic, and there’s no epic story behind it. He got real sick and his lungs stopped working. And then his heart stopped beating. It took 5 quick minutes to revive him, followed by several intense conversations with doctors who were quite concerned that we truly didn’t understand how sick he truly was, followed by three and a half weeks in the hospital recovering. We left without any answers or clear direction in terms of his care.
But that doesn’t matter. My son almost died, and I still do things I’m not proud of.
Today I yelled at him for touching his little sister. She cried every time he approached.
“She isn’t enjoying this! Stop touching!” But he wouldn’t listen. And he wouldn’t stop hitting.
“FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY, STOP HITTING YOUR SISTER!”
He’s just enough of a regular 4-year old to make me forget sometimes: he’s a picky eater, he bugs his sister, he hates going on the school bus. He’s so normal sometimes, so I forget. But then it all comes back to me, and I see the truth.
I see his crooked left leg, the one that never healed properly because of two separate fractures.
I see him trying desperately to keep up with his little sister, only to be left so tired and out of breath that he throws a tantrum about it, making it even harder for him to breathe.
I see him looking at other people who can jump, such a simple thing, and I wonder if he knows he can’t actually do that.
I see these things, but I’m still mad when he screams after discovering I’ve put pureed carrots in his macaroni and cheese sauce. (Like really, how can he tell the difference?) I still get angry when he refuses to tell me exactly what he wants to watch on Netflix. (If only he knew about all the kids who don’t get to watch unlimited amounts of TV.)
I try to turn his many surgeries into something fun, like he’s getting a reward for something: “You are so lucky and get to have a sleepover at the hospital and then you get to watch anything you want for a week!”
I feel like a liar, a failure, an impostor, every single time I say these things.
I try to keep telling myself it’s okay to feel like a generally shitty parent, that we all feel that way. But I’m not like all the other shitty parents. I am supposed to be, by virtue of this situation, the most amazing parent who ever walked the face of the earth. I should be making every moment magical and give him all the things he ever asks for. I should follow him to Kindergarten to volunteer and be delightful and make people wonder when the heck I’m coming back.
I should do all this, but I don’t.
I didn’t choose to have a sick son. I just wanted to be a mother, a good mother. And now I’m just a mother who yells at her son who almost died. I suppose yelling at him is my last chance at feeling normal, my last chance to yield control on the life of someone with a giant question mark on his future, a future that I sometimes can’t even bear to think about.
I can’t make him better. But I need to feel normal. So I’ll keep yelling, nagging, reminding, pretending to be just like any other mom.
I’ll keep pretending, so long as the disguise fits.
This author has elected to publish anonymously.