When I Apologized to My Daughter at the Park for Being a Mom Who Doesn't 'Work Properly'

Here’s an honest mum moment. I originally wrote this in my personal diary, but I’m sharing it because it’s real and it’s the hardest part of living with chronic illness. It’s also the hardest to explain because it’s not a list of quantifiable side effects or symptoms. It’s the messy, guilt-ridden, lovesick business of mothering.

I took my daughter to the park on Saturday morning, and I was sitting on a bench watching her play when the tire swing opened up. She grabbed it right away. (When we’re at the playground, she almost always has one eye on the tire swing, just waiting to pounce on her chance, should it come.) So she started calling to me to come and push her.

And I just knew I couldn’t do it. Maybe I physically could have made it happen in that moment, but it would have made my breathing more difficult later on and I had already been struggling for days. I decided to call her over to the bench so we could talk. She hesitated, stuck between wanting to be obedient and knowing the 6-year-old boy standing off to the side would certainly take over the tire swing the instant she let go.

But she did let go, and when she arrived in front of me I explained that my arms weren’t strong enough to push her and apologized. She said nothing but immediately picked a dandelion, and as she handed it to me she said, “This says that it’s OK.” I told her I’m sorry I don’t work properly and she just said, “That’s OK, I have a job you can do for me – you can look for pine cones.”  

And it made me want to weep – for feeling helplessly trapped in a body that struggles to accomplish basic tasks and for having a daughter who, at 4 years old, can already manage disappointment like a professional and who knows how to alleviate her mother’s sense of loss and failure.

She is amazing.

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