Please stop telling me how strong I am. Please stop telling me how amazing I am, how great a parent I am for managing ‘so well’ under such difficult circumstances.
I’m not doing anything any other parent does. I love my child, and I do everything I can to ensure he’s as happy and as healthy as he can be. Just like any other parent. Ours days are a nuanced expression of both joy and grief, frustration and fear alongside victory and hope all at once. I delight in my sons smiles as much as I grieve that smiling may be all he can do.
When you tell me how strong I am, you make me feel like I can’t tell you that I’m struggling. I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am, I can’t tell you when I need help. I can’t tell you that we’re having a really hard time and that I feel so alone and isolated. I feel like as a caped crusader of strength I can only smile, take your platitudes and say ‘We just do the best we can’. I feel like I can only share the battles we’ve won, I can only share the good and not the nuanced whole picture.
There is a guy at Sam’s work who has an adorable baby who has sleep difficulties. He’s having a hard time managing, understandably, as would anyone who is sleep deprived.
Except that this guy literally said the words “I don’t know anyone who has had as hard a time as we have.”
This guy has met Kai numerous times. This guy whose child has never been in hospital outside birth, never been on end of life care, or on a ventilator to breathe or in ICU. This kid who has hit all his milestones and grins and plays with his toes. This kid who is perfectly healthy in every way. He goes to bed at night and wonders if his kid will sleep more than a few hours. I go to bed at night and wonder if we’ll end up in hospital before morning arrives.
This guy is in his sleep deprived bubble, and he gets to tell his friends about how hard it is. I, on the other hand, get told how strong I am, which stops any venting, any kind of sharing of the real difficulties I’m facing, the emotions I’m having a hard time processing. It isolates me.
This in part is why I blog. It gives me an outlet, passive sharing. No one can stop a blog post half way through with ‘but you’re so strong!’
But passive sharing is lonely. It’s a one way street where I broadcast out to you all. I don’t doubt I’ll get a few comments about how strong/amazing/great we are.
So please don’t. Please don’t tell me how strong I am, or how much in awe you are of how we parent in the face of adversity. Instead, ask what we’re struggling with, ask what we’re loving. Ask if we could use a visit, or just call for a five minute catch up. Just check in, a two minute FaceTime to say hi would be game changing to my otherwise very lonely, very isolated day.
Let me share, in a moment just between us how I am, and then I’ll move it on, I promise. It might be heavy, it might be light. But please, please, please, stop telling me how strong I am.