What I Want My Kids to Learn From My Journey With Multiple Sclerosis

Before I began writing this I asked my daughters, 3 and 5 years old, how they would describe mommy. Their answers included:

  • You know the answer to everything
  • You are the tallest
  • You take really good care of me

Two of those answers are wrong: Don’t tell my husband, but I actually do not know everything. And just shy of 5’4’’, I am rarely the tallest person in the room.

Despite the misconceptions, my kids clearly think I’m a superstar. But there inevitably comes a time in every parent’s life when we are knocked off our pedestals and our kids begin to recognize us for the mere mortals we really are. And when mine do come to this realization, they will also learn that I have multiple sclerosis (MS).

From the day I learned I was pregnant, I worried about when my child would have to learn about my illness. As parents our instinct is to protect our kids from hardship and sadness. My biggest fear was that my MS would bring exactly that for them. But now as their personalities begin to emerge and I see how thoughtful, kind and resilient they really are, I’m slightly less worried.

I hope that when my daughters do learn about my condition, they also know the following:

1. I have tried to take control. MS is unpredictable and fluctuating. Despite a sense of powerlessness, I have done everything I can to stay as healthy as possible. Whether it is through lifestyle factors or medication, I have worked on areas within my control in an attempt to stay strong and at my best.

2. Our obstacles do not define us. My illness is only one piece of who I am. I may have a chronic illness, but that does not change the person I am. It does not change the values I want my kids to hold nor the lessons I hope to pass down.

3. The future may be uncertain, but that does not make us exceptional. Although I hope for the best and do everything I can to remain healthy, the reality is that we don’t know what course my disease may take. But this uncertainty is not unique to those with a chronic illness. Perhaps we are more conscious of it, and are forced to face it sooner, but the future remains uncertain for everyone. And so we will not take what we have for granted.

I hope that when my kids do learn the truth, maybe they will realize that my chronic illness has helped make me the superstar they think I am today.

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