In my opinion, setting New Year’s resolutions often can have a reverse effect in that they sometimes make us feel less than okay or inadequate. What I frequently see (and feel myself) is that the parents of a chronically ill child lean toward setting resolutions around working harder, working smarter or researching harder in finding a cure/solution for THEIR child.
I believe these resolutions can be misguided, resulting in disappointing outcomes.
We look at ourselves and the changes we can make to help find that one miracle; that one panacea. Working harder or smarter may not make any difference in finding a cure or solution. Instead of making us feel better about ourselves, those kinds of resolutions can quickly result in a parent feeling badly and even a failure. Finding a cure or solution may just be out of our control.
When I develop my resolutions, I purposely make sure they do not relate to finding answers, solutions or even a cure. I set resolutions that guide me through each day and keep me focused on the present. They focus on the here and now and are part of the underlying fabric of living my daily life.
This year, my resolutions are a repeat of last year. It’s not that I didn’t accomplish my goals; I just wanted to repeat them and give myself a gentle reminder to continue in the same direction.
Here are my resolutions for 2021.
Always look at my son as a growing, maturing individual, not just a sick child. I must remind myself to remember to just enjoy his company; his witty self and sense of humor. I never give up hope that things will be better for him but in the meantime I also know “he is enough.”
Be kind and patient with my ill child. By gosh, I work hard on this every day but as a normal human, I sometimes lose that patience; often feeling frustrated, sad, even angry at my son for not being “normal.”
Keep things as normal as possible for my other child. I want her to experience everything life offers her. It is not her fault that her brother is ill. It’s not her job to miss out on normal age activities. Her brother’s health often gets in the way and is a frequent topic of discussion but I try hard not to have it the central focus of our family.
Be kind to myself. I truly believe in the phrase - “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” If I keep myself upbeat and hopeful, I am in a much better place to parent both my kids.
These resolutions remind me to stay in the present and enjoy the moment.
The first two resolutions remind me to enjoy my son for who he is and not to define him by his illness.
The third resolution reminds me to enjoy my daughter and allow her the chance to grow up without feeling guilty or angry that her brother is the center of our attention.
Finally, the fourth resolution reminds me that I need to recharge too sometimes; giving myself the freedom and permission to do so. This allows me to take a break from the constant worry I have about my son’s life - present and future.
Many people choose New Year’s resolutions including volunteering, weight loss, spending quality time with loved ones, etc. People always have good intentions but the percent is low for people who actually come through on those resolutions. According to a Forbes magazine 2018 article, studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.
Again, resolutions should be attainable; doable; and have a high chance of success. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you know that your goal holds a low chance of being reached... making you feel less than worthy.
Feeling bad about ourselves doesn’t help anyone!
Parents with a chronically ill child already have so much stress on a daily basis. We know deep down that we can’t resolve everything no matter how hard we try.
I will never give up hope that we will find things to help my son have a fulfilling, joyful life.
However, my New Year’s resolutions are about reminding myself to enjoy my kids for the way they are right now -- healthy or not.
I am not a doctor or therapist. I am not dispensing advice, but simply giving food for thought, discussing my personal experience in relation to parenting a child with chronic illness and the impact it has had on my family. I am not recommending any particular way of parenting; just sharing my experiences. Please consult your physician or personal therapist for issues you are concerned about.