Being The Sanctuary Your Child Needs

By Chanda Alicea

It’s Saturday, finally time to let loose and relax! Can’t wait to spend time with some of our favorite people at a baby shower! Sound great right? Totally, except here I am sitting on my bed typing out this post because my weekend plans were basically flushed down the toilet sometime last night when my kid puked her guts out. It looks like the stomach flu is taking her down for round 2…WTF?? Parents, I know you feel my pain. And I have to tell you, we’ve had quite the day so far. Stomach pain, tears, fever, body aches and pains along with the REFUSAL to take medicine because it tastes yucky (that last one is truly my favorite 😉). And as I laid in my bed then later sat in the bathroom with my kid while she soaked in a bath and just let everything else go and sang my heart out along with various music on Spotify to her, it really got me thinking.

When someone you care about is ill or injured, is there any worse heartbreak than feeling helpless for your loved ones? Not for me, especially not with this ridiculous stomach flu. I’ll be the first to tell you how lucky we are that she’s never been really sick. It’s tearing me apart from the inside to see her in so much pain knowing there IS NOT A SINGLE THING I CAN DO ABOUT IT. It makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent. And logically speaking, I know that I am not, but today my brain and my heart are not even close to being on the same page.

So how did set my ego aside so I could best the best mom I needed to be for her? I’ve had to let go. I’ve had to continuously remind myself that I can’t fix this for her, and as a parent that’s a hard thing to accept. But as I laid with her after her bath and kept the music going on for over an hour not daring to turn it off once I saw she finally fell asleep, this song reminded me that I’m doing my job. In that moment, and the moments with the music before she had her bath where she was sobbing uncontrollably while the music played, I realized I was doing the best I could given the conditions of our current situation.

Wait, what? I let my kid cry and sob incessantly? Yes, yes I did. And here’s why: first of all, we all need a good cry once in a while and I’m sure it’s a scientific fact that music heals the soul (please note that this is not actually a fact-based statement). And while it was my first instinct to tell her to stop crying, I stopped myself from doing so. I think it’s always our first go-to when a kid cries is to tell them to stop. But we have to do our jobs as parents and assess the situation that has brought on the tears, because we as adults dang sure don’t appreciate when other people tell us what to do with our feelings, so why should we create a double standard and do so with our fragile, sweet, impressionable children? We shouldn’t. I’m going to repeat that in all caps…WE SHOULDN’T BE STUNTING OUR CHILDREN’S EMOTIONAL GROWTH BY TELLING THEM HOW TO FEEL OR WHAT TO DO WITH THEIR FEELINGS!!

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s no easy thing to correct. But if our immediate action as an adult is to sometimes cry when we are in an immense amount of pain and that’s completely acceptable, why then shouldn’t it be so for our children?  I think sometimes in the frenzy of an illness, we forget that these tiny people have emotions just like we do and our eagerness and NEED to fix things as a parent (because that is our job most of the time) gets in the way of actually doing our best job. Quite simply put, we are their sanctuary. And as their sanctuary, it’s our job to pay attention to what they need and let them have it. It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable it may make us, or how it makes us feel. In those moments, it’s not about us. I think there’s truly no better test of patience as a parent then when your kid is sick. And trust me, my patience has been tested today, and I’m going to be honest and tell you I failed a bit, but that’s okay, it happens. I’ve moved on and am not wallowing in the moment of how I lost my mind and snapped at my child and her stubbornness ( I don’t even have a clue where that strong willed part of her personality comes from 😉), and gone back to focusing on her needs and how I can best meet them while we re-play this same nightmare from a week ago.

I’d love to wrap this up in a real pretty bow and leave you with some kind of profound closing statement, but the truth is that I’m exhausted and my mind is basically a blank slate at this point, so I have nothing but this rambling rant…parents, keep being the sanctuary your kid deserves even if that means there is nothing you can do to fix what is wrong with them. The love, support, kindness and bond you create by being there doing whatever thing you chose to do with them to make them comfortable is enough. Nothing shouts love louder than showing your kid that nothing is more important than making sure they have whatever relief you are providing them when they need it the most.

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