By Angel Chase
Web Exclusive - December 5, 2008
I awake to my reflection; there are two liquid brown eyes staring intently back into mine. These are my features, yet not quite my own. On my young son's face, they have been made perfect.
My son is still looking at me, concerned. "Mommy, you awake? It's..." his attention flies to the clock radio sitting on the nightstand, and his forehead wrinkles as he concentrates on the numbers he sees displayed. "...it's 7, 1, 7—time to go to school and work," he announces. I try to shake off the fogged feeling that engulfs me and rise to meet the day. But it's a slow-going process.
"Mommy, you awake? You need to be standing, like this." He makes his fingers show me the correct upright position I should be in. "Not like this." His fingers relax and go prone. "You sick? Let me give you a kiss." My hand is poking out from underneath the comforter. He finds it and chivalrously gives it a kiss. "You all better?" he asks, still holding my hand in his smaller ones.
My mother told me once that a mother has no time to be sick, no time to be tired—not when she has children that need to be taken care of. But I am sick. Every day I wake up stiff; my body aches with pain, and I am faced with an endless feeling of exhaustion, which pits itself against a four-year-old's youthful exuberance. Fibromyalgia is not life threatening (something I am thankful for every time I look at my child's face), but it takes a physical and emotional toll on a person.
There was a time when I felt my quality of life was diminished by the disease, and subsequently, so was my son's. Thanks to my son, I have learned to let go of those feelings and focus on the richness of our life together. This has also been a slow-going process. The past few years have also handed me the transitions of a painful divorce, and having to shift from being able to work mostly from home so I could be with my son, to having to work as close to full time as I can manage, with my boy spending most of his days in preschool. It has become vital to remember what I'm grateful for.
Some days are better than others. Some days I don't feel so achy or tired. On those weeknights, we hurry home to cast off our separate days and enjoy each other's company. I cherish the weekends that we are able to fill with activities and adventures. Then there are other days when I simply don't feel well. We've learned to navigate through those days, too, to engage in less active play and activities. We create works of art; we role-play with my son as doctor, and me as the nurse that has to calm a waiting room filled with impatient, and sometimes scared, stuffed animals, reassuring them that the doctor is there to help them.
When I am not feeling well enough to go outside and play baseball (which is my son's current obsession), he happily brings the game inside to me. I sit on the couch and watch him play imaginary baseball, and he has made it my job to cheer and holler for him as he hits home runs and runs the bases in our living room. After his game, we sit together and look up at the living room ceiling as all the pretend fireworks explode in bursts of color, in honor of his team's win. On the rare occasions he lets his team be beat, we commiserate the loss and celebrate how he tried his best.
I no longer berate myself for not being as active a parent as I would have liked. I know in my heart I do the best I can. I've stopped judging myself or comparing myself to the impossible ideal of what a good mother should be. I realized somewhere along the way that right now, my son doesn't judge me for my limitations.
Our house isn't always neat and tidy. It doesn't bother us; it is home and filled with lots of love and laughter. We don't always eat home-cooked meals; we are still thankful for the food we eat. But more important, not a day goes by that my child does not know how much I love him.
I do my best to raise him to celebrate life and live it to its fullest, but also to have empathy for others. I do that by example. If I can do that, then I am, in essence, a good mother.
Angel Chase lives with her young son Brandon, their dog, and two cats in a crowded, but happy little home.