It’s warped and yet completely understandable that the misery of others makes us reevaluate our own sorrows. Bob Marley sung, “Every man thinks his burden is the heaviest” while fellow musician Janice Joplin said that, “Audiences like their blues singers to be miserable.”
I feel that if I was truly mindful then I would be more aware and perhaps less dramatic about my own despair. The misery of others would become my pain too. But there’s that little thing called an ego in the way and a parent’s ego can be so very sensitive. My ego tells me its okay to feel entitled to fear, disappointment, grief…and that’s just if my husband forgets to take out the recycling. No really, I think too many small frets about inconsequential daily activities add up to one big ball of unwarranted stress.
So I will take a look at some of my friends’ loads. Well, let’s start with my girlfriend J. She has two daughters – one and four years old. The elder of the two has a very small list of foods that she can eat. No, this isn’t like your sister-in-law who is going gluten-free…this little girl drinks an elemental formula several times a day to get basic nutrition plus she can eat blueberries. She is always at an appointment – to test her allergen levels, try an alternative therapy, or go to a therapist to help her address the hoarding which can (and recently did just) send her to the emergency room with an anaphylactic reaction.
By the way, next week marks the Eosinophil Awareness Week. We all could stand to be more educated about this. When I tell well-meaning friends they doubt that she could actually be that allergic to foods. I have seen her break out with hives after being in contact with a toy with food residue on it. It also affects her behavior. This little girl’s body is so irritated that she can’t sleep and has a very short fuse. My husband and I wonder what we could do to support this family. Sleepovers would leave the parents sleepless with worry. Even when it comes to providing childcare, one slip could mean an immediate reaction.
There was recently an Anderson Cooper article about Eosinophilic Esophagitis. On the website, someone commented that these children deserved to be weeded out by natural selection. I can only imagine how my friend felt for someone else to say her daughter more or less didn’t deserve to live. (For the record, a fiesty mama crafted a winning response to this buttheadery.)
I’ll be honest. I’ve had moments where I’ve been embarrassed by my friend’s yelling at her daughter while we are out in public. She also snapped one time while we were over for a play date causing my daughter to leap on my lap. I was speechless. And I should be. My children and I had a well rounded meal. We slept through the night. We could go to any park or children’s attraction we wanted to without the fear of getting sick.
When I take a look at my parenting friends, I am amazed at what they can bare when it comes to their children. T is a single immigrant mother who has her child her with her 24/7 – at work, at home, all the time. She never gets time to herself, nor have I ever heard her complain about that. N is a recovering addict with renewed custody of her two young children. She wants to stay clean but struggles with living in housing where others do not abide by the ground rules.
So yes, maybe I will think twice about complaining when hubby gets home a little late making me late for a class. He will have the kids fed, bathed, and read to by time I get home. I won’t jump to criticize him for an experimental meal of tempeh muffins – even if this is an exaggerated recipe suggestion, at least I could eat it without getting deathly ill. And when I’m having a bad day at home with the kids, I know I can stop and be thankful they are in my presence and that I don’t have the weight of addiction looming in the background.