It’s a little after three in the afternoon and nothing can go right. Do you ever have one of those days? No decision made is the right one, nothing said gets heard, and there are no smiling faces. I don’t like days like this but they come, I can count on it; days where I want to hide in mid-afternoon. I can’t help but fixate on rest, maybe just fifteen minutes of sleep because I am so tired. Maybe I’m deliriously daydreaming but nothing that comes from someone as tired as me can be right. No, it’s a nightmare and the best I can do seems like trying to find my way out of a smoke filled building. I know what I need to do, I am just disoriented from the smoke, or in my case, fatigue.
With chronic illness comes fatigue, as with having a special needs child. I have both so I don’t think I need to explain why I’m so tired. To sum up how I feel can be best described by the look on my face when I hear someone complain about how they didn’t get to bed until midnight after their fun evening out and they just couldn’t get out of bed that morning. It’s an unsympathetic face and maybe one of envy, but it isn’t nice. I still try to throw on a fake smile and do my best to be sympathetic. I assure you most people can see through my fake smiles.
In a world like mine, a fake smile is necessary, almost a requirement. Who wants to be around someone whose mouth is frozen in a downward curl? Personally, I smile in hopes that the remainder of my body gets the hint. “Hey brain, look!! See this smile??? Now perk up!” Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty to genuinely smile about but I’m trying to be honest. Days like today come and I have got to grin and bear it. That’s what a mom with a chronic illness and a special needs child has to do, it’s what a mom with a special needs child or a chronic illness does, it’s what a mom does.
Being a mom is a wonderful but thankless job. I worry about how I’m doing as a mom all the time. They can certainly tell my real smile from the fake. They must know what takes the genuine smile from my face. One kid gets off the bus and I get screamed at, spit on and kicked. That’s in the first fifteen minutes. He’s had a bad day and now I know it. The other comes home and lies about his homework or is defiant when I ask him to help with chores. All the while the baby is pulling on my leg and the oldest daughter decides she feels left out and gets herself into trouble too. Yes, on most days I put on my faux grin and handle it as calmly as expected but sometimes that fake smile isn’t enough and everyone knows it. I yell, cry, or hide in the bathroom a little longer than it took me to go, just so I can let off a little steam. Sometimes, like today, it comes rolling off one. word. at. a. time.
I admire all parents that put up the good fight, fall asleep in tears, and keep doing it all again because they love their children. It’s not the same kind of love that made the family, it’s the love that binds it once it’s formed. It’s the love that keeps going after getting slapped in the face. It’s the love that will repeat the homework assignment for the tenth time, cleans up the mess for the twentieth time and is thankful for it all when the time to go to bed finally comes.
I get it, it’s hard sometimes. We think we have to do everything right all the time or we are going to have children who will resent us later or won’t become productive members of society. When these thoughts bombard my head, I frequently have to give myself a time-out and a pep talk. “You are doing the best you can and with circumstances that are extraordinary. Keep trying!” That’s all I can do. Keep trying.
The difficulty is worth it. People often tell me they don’t know how I do it. To be honest, I don’t know either. I get through the day and sometimes I make a mess of it. At the end of the day I try to remember to be thankful and thankful again when the sun rises so I can try again.
Today wasn’t such a good day. I wish it was easier. I wish I didn’t cry and feel hopeless but I know I’m not alone and neither are you. Keep going. Keep trying. It’s worth it. One day at a time.