Multiple sclerosis teaches a mom lessons about parenting
As mothers, I think that we are given permission from the Universe to lie to our kids. And not really big lies, but little lies that help smooth out tough conversations.
Lies like, “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you” as we rip Band-Aids off of boo-boos. Little lies like, “We will be there before you know it”— knowing full well that the car ride to the amusement park is at least an hour away and there is a traffic jam.
So as I continue to embark on my motherhood journey, I, too, have started telling these same little lies to smooth out difficult questions that my 4-year-old is fond of asking me.
But one question caught me off guard; I didn’t have a little lie to tell to this: “Mommy, why do you get tired all the time, and why do you walk funny sometimes?”
The dreaded questions that I was hoping not to have to answer for at least another year were already being asked! As a mother living with relapsing multiple sclerosis, I try very hard to mask those tougher days by announcing to the family, “Today, Mommy is moving like a robot,” which means that I will be plodding around the house, shifting my weight from side to side because my legs are agitated by the effects of multiple sclerosis leaving lesions on my spinal cord. At times this will affect my gait and balance. Being “Mommy robot” sounds a bit more fun and allows us to keep the situation light. Sometime I do walk funny and my gait is off due to my MS, and becoming “Mommy robot” puts things into perspective.
But on this day I decided that not every MS manifestation could be attributed to “Mommy robot.” So as he waited for an answer, I got the perfect way to explain multiple sclerosis in a way that my 2- and 4-year-olds will understand.
So I casually said, “Jacks, when you fall and hurt yourself, what do you say?” Jacks looked at me a bit annoyed because this was not the answer to his question. But being a good little boy he said, “Ouchy.”
“Good,” I said. “And what if you fell and hurt yourself all over, what would you say then?”
Jacks cocked his head to one side and said very confidently, “Ouchies, Mommy. I would have ouchies all over the place!” He spread his arms as far apart as he could.
So I took a breath and continued, “So guess what, Jacks? Mommy has ouchies, too.” He ran to me, looking all over my arms and legs.
“Where, Mommy? Where are your ouchies? I don’t see them.” His big brown eyes filled with a bit of concern that almost made me want to cry. But I kept going.
“Well, Mommy has ouchies on the inside of my body where you and I can’t see them. That is why I get tired and walk funny sometimes. Mommy’s ouchies on the inside are acting up.”
I stopped talking and looked at him. He sat silently and I figured that this was a bit too abstract and maybe I should have kept up with the “Mommy robot” story.
A little lie to smooth out a difficult conversation.
This is when I knew that as much as we mothers like to shield our children from uncertain truths, they show us that they can handle it. Jacks looked up at me and started planting kisses all over my face and arms and legs. I started laughing at this sudden display of affection. And before I knew it my little Dylan had joined the party.
“Jacks, what are you guys doing?” I said as I laughed because their kisses were tickling me. The two of them knocked me over and we were all on the floor.
“Kissing all of your ouchies away, Mommy. Feel better now?” he asked as Dylan echoed the answer with some of his indiscernible toddler ramblings.
And at that moment I did feel better. Much better.
Telling the truth can also smooth out difficult conversations. Lesson learned. Another stamp in my passport: Motherhood.
From My MS Heels