If your kid got sick, you’d feel terrible. Not just terrible because you don’t want anything to happen to them and because their pain is your pain. But because as you held their weakened body, as you comforted them or held their hair back, as you watched them sleep fitfully, or gave them their medicine and saw that flash of fear in their eyes, you’d be racked with guilt.
When our kids are not feeling well, not their full, energetic, chaotic selves, we are reminded of just how small and defenseless they are. It’s in these moments that it strikes us just how hard we are on them, how much we ask of them…and how meaningless and stupid and unnecessary most of the things we get upset with them about clearly are. How little we care about the stuff we cared so much about. All we can feel is regret and guilt.
In the beautiful and haunting book Death Be Not Proud, Johnny Gunther’s mother reflected at the end of her son’s tragically short life that all she could think was that she wished she’d loved him more. So it goes when our kids are sick or struggling. It’s not that we’ll wish we’d love them more–they’re still right there with us–we’ll just wish we hadn’t been so damn hard on them.
So instead of waiting for that guilt, for those conflicted feelings while they have a bad fever or getting an X-ray or in the hospital coming out of anesthesia from having their appendix out, try to relax now. Be kind to them now. Go easy on them. Have some empathy. Let things go.