When My Stepson's Writing Project Revealed How He Sees My Illness


The concern and worry about how a child will interpret and understand a chronic illness of a parent figure can be troubling. Take it from me, a stepmom of an 8-year-old kiddo who knew me when I was well and knows me now that I am chronically ill.

There we were, sitting in the parent-teacher conference when the teacher said our child had written a family book. In the book he described his mom, his dad, his stepmom (me) and himself. Since becoming ill I have worried that he would look at me as not as “fun” as before or just someone who “holds us back.” He knows I am sick and he recognizes my illness and when I’m not feeling well. When he really wants me to do something he thinks ahead of time about how he can make it easier for me. In the past he has told me that he wants me to go on a hike with him on our property and that he has already gone up the hill and found the perfect rock where I can rest. He looks next to me now when I’m sitting on the couch to make sure I always have water. He especially steps up if his dad is out of the room.

Yet I still worry sometimes. I never want to embarrass him or be the stepmom “who uses oxygen.” To be honest I think when I use oxygen it worries him a little bit more than anything else. If he notices that I’m using oxygen he makes a point to come give me a hug and tell me he loves me.

I tensed when the teacher started reading from his book. He wrote, “Amy is the stepmom of the family. She is 31 years old. She likes to sleep. She is important because she loves us so much and she makes us food and she makes us donuts.” I was relieved because he also wrote that his mom (who is perfectly healthy) likes to sleep, too. It’s just some weird adult thing. I’m not a mutant. He doesn’t think of me as only being sick. He remembers the other fun things about me, too. He knows I bake and make yummy foods and snacks. Most of all, he knows I make donuts for him and I love him.

Maybe I have to rest a little bit more and drink more water, but he just thinks of it as an “Amy thing.” When I pass out in front of his friends he says, “Oh yeah, she just does that sometimes.” He knows that Aunt J doesn’t play Monopoly and that’s just an Aunt J thing. He doesn’t hold it against her. It’s just another thing to remember about her.

I’m not weird. I’m not an embarrassment. I’m the maker of donuts and everyone knows donuts are a love language.

Follow this journey on Smiles in the Trials.

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Thinkstock photo by dolgachov

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