Tag Archives: hope

Sick Child Shoes

No doubt, you’ve all been in my shoes before, and they’re not pretty shoes. They are not bright red stilettos, made for dancing. They are not ballet slippers.

They are the shoes of a mom with a sick child. They are flat, and worn, and maybe a bit tired from over-work. The soles are hanging off and they are covered in splatters.

Walking in these shoes can be confusing; sometimes, you are sure your child is exaggerating. The dramatics of belly-rubbing and painful howls are just too much to believe. Instead of letting your kid stay home to vegetate on the sofa, you send her to school anyway.

And here’s when the mom-of-a-sick-child-shoes seem to suddenly become a size too small: when two hours after dropping her off, the school nurse calls, asking that you reclaim her as soon as possible. The throat is red; the temperature is high; the Oscar-worthy dramatics have calmed down and are a mere memory, as the silent child now lies still.

And then, there are the times that are just the opposite. There are times when you’re just a little bit duped. Weary of the daily demands of parenting, you’re too tired to diagnose or to consider. You march into your kid’s room in the wee morning hours wearing a nice pair of Italian leather wedges, and march out wearing the mom-of-a-sick-child shoes that you chose to put on all by yourself. In your heart of hearts, you know your little trooper needs to take off his Transformers PJ’s and get up and go. But no…you oblige.

This is what moms far and wide refer to as a mental health day. I’m quite sure, after having lived through a few myself, that the “mental health” is more concerned with the lady in the now-raggedy shoes, instead of with a kid who should be wearing a school uniform instead of a My Little Pony nightgown.

“Mental Health” days are not about bad parenting. They are not about trying to buck the system, or about not giving a hoot. In my experience, mental health days are our moments or admitting how important our pediatricians and other medical professionals are in our lives. It is our moment of saying: “Heck, I just don’t know!”

When the thermometer reads as borderline and the throat looks a little red…but not TOO red…we make this small concession to sanity and err with the PJs and the really awful cartoons. We wish we had a quick and effortless doctor’s appraisal to pull out of our back pocket BEFORE the school bus arrives–but we don’t. In these moments, we tend to take the path of least resistance…we go with the flow.

I wonder sometimes what lesson we teach our children on this one special day every year, this borderline sick day, this weird holiday when we pretend with our child that her condition is worse than it is. We always say something like “We both know you really weren’t THAT sick–don’t expect to get away with this ever again.”

As we turn away we may grin a little, remembering our own falsely amped-up fevers and the moaning and groaning bellyaches of our childhoods. Then, once we leave the room and our questionable behavior really hits home, we wonder: are we accidentally teaching a lesson that learning isn’t important? Are we teaching that exaggerating is okay? Are we teaching something that will come to haunt us?

Whatever the appraisal turns out to be, most all parents are guilty of the “mental health day” at least once during a child’s upbringing. Although I can’t condone this as a fitting regular behavior, or even a good one, I condone it as being fully human.

Sometimes we walk in the ugly sick child shoes because we have to; at other times, we do it because we’re just too damn tired to put on a pair of heels.



Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the humorous essay collection for women, “Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women, and Careening into Middle Age.” She has read her work on NPR radio and it has appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers and literary journals, including The Writer, Funny Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and many parenting magazines. Find out more at KaraMartinezBachman.com or follow her on Twitter, @80sMomKara.

2 Sides of ADHD

“I’ve asked you three times to get your socks on and brush your teeth! Please, listen to me and do what I am asking!” My voice is louder and harsher than I would like and while I immediately feel regret, the anger is the stronger emotion and wins out.

My son has ADHD. It’s severe. It’s an evil condition in that he looks and acts (for the most part), like a typical 12 year old boy. Active, silly, inquisitive, moody at times. He likes Godzilla and bad tween television, could live on dessert and is starting to notice girls. He loves to tell jokes, watch movies and well, insert anything else typical 12 year old boys do and that’s him.

Except he’s different. He cannot sit without singing, humming, or talking while moving continuously; rocking, tapping the table, or running around the house. And the longer he goes, the faster and louder he gets. I let it go until I cannot hear the same line from whatever song is in his head, one more time. He can’t focus unless it’s something he’s passionate about. He doesn’t hear directions if he’s the least bit distracted. He doesn’t get good grades, not because he isn’t smart, but because he does not turn in assignments. The school bell rings and he’s off, leaving his papers behind or wading them up and shoving them in his bag never to be found. His room is a mess.

“If you don’t get your teeth brushed you will lose TV tonight,” I yell into the bathroom where he is standing (with socks on – yay!) playing with a toy.

“I am!” he yells back, still fiddling with the toy. I watch for a moment. He picks up his toothbrush, reaches for the toothpaste and then the toy is in his hand again because he knocked it into the sink. The toothbrush goes down and he is rearranging the legs on the toy.

“That’s it, TV time is gone,” I say walking downstairs.

“What? That’s not fair, I AM brushing my teeth. I was getting the toothpaste and my toy fell and the leg broke off. I had to get it back on!”

“The important thing in this situation is NOT your toy, it’s getting your teeth brushed.” I walk into the kitchen and lean against the counter, my head in my hands.

He and his younger brother come downstairs. His brother has his socks on, his books for school and walks to the counter to get his lunch. I can’t compare them, I won’t. But I do, in my head.

He starts again, telling me he was about the brush his teeth and shouldn’t lose TV. His hair is not brushed. I sigh – I did not tell him to brush his hair. I look away so he doesn’t see my frustration. He can read me like a psychic, to the point where I feel at times, he is sitting inside my head, eavesdropping on my thoughts and peeping at my emotions.

I manage to get everyone in the car. I’m still hearing why TV shouldn’t be taken away and ignoring the pleas. I ask his brother if he remembered to grab his homework, already knowing he did, just so I can have a break from his complaints. “Yes, and the permission slip you had on the counter for my field trip.”

“Thank you, I appreciate your help,” I say smiling at him.

I see him looking at me and I smile. But it is smaller and I feel the same guilt I feel daily. I want to help him and make him understand he is good enough, smart enough and a wonderful human. I love him more than I can express and it kills me to watch him struggle. It also kills me trying to keep him on target constantly – in school, at home, in life – while working to keep everything else going; work, bills, his brother, my marriage, my sanity! I know asking him to always remember things, or focus on homework, or keep his room clean is akin to asking him to grow brown eyes – impossible. I know all of this and it is still painful. Being his mom makes me constantly feel like a failure.

“I’ve asked you three times to get your socks on and brush your teeth! Please, listen to me and do what I am asking!” my mom yells at me. I nod and go in and grab socks. I like to wear ones that don’t match and then I see my Godzilla action figure. The stupid legs are all messed up. I’ll bet it was my brother touching my stuff again. If he comes in my room again I’m going to break all his crayons. I grab the figure and walk into the bathroom. The darned legs won’t stay in place so I need to get them snapped in.

“If you don’t get your teeth brushed you will lose TV tonight,” my mom yells again. “I am,” I yell back getting frustrated. She can SEE I’m in the bathroom, what does she think I am doing in here? I’m not in here doing laundry, obviously I’m here to brush my teeth. I grab my toothbrush and reach for the toothpaste when I knock Godzilla into the sink. I grab him and the stupid leg falls off. I’m trying to get it snapped into place when my mom yells, “That’s it, TV time is gone.”

Why does she do this? I just took a second to fix Godzilla. I try to explain. “What? That’s not fair, I AM brushing my teeth. I was getting the toothpaste on and my toy fell and the leg broke off and I had to get it back on!”

“The important thing in this situation is NOT your toy, it is getting your teeth brushed,” she says going downstairs. She always does this. She gets mad at me when I am doing exactly what she asked. I don’t understand why she’s so stuck on everything being done “quickly.” I brush them, get Godzilla’s leg on and go downstairs. Oh! I forgot mom said I could play my new Robots game after school and homework. Sweet! I’m hungry, I should have had another egg.

I grab my bag and the pencils I got last night and get in the car. The pencils are super cool! You hold down the clicker part and the lead comes out continually until you let go. Awesome.

I’m going to try again with mom. Sometimes she ends up seeing my point, or just giving in and I really want to see the new Adventure Time show tonight. I’m trying to plead my case but she’s not listening. She asks my brother if he grabbed his homework, which of course he has.

He has it so easy. Oh and he got his permission slip too, great. I see my mom smile at him in the mirror. Then she looks at me and her face changes. She’s smiling but her eyes turn down more. She takes a deep breath and I can tell she’s mad. Sometimes seeing how mad she gets at me, makes me feel like I’m music playing too loud. Everyone likes the song well enough, but the volume is too high. The beat is too strong. It makes people scrunch up their faces and sigh. And because everything is just “too much,” everyone wants to turn the radio off. I know she’d like to turn me off. I smile and hope she sees I mean it. I don’t want her mad.

I wish I could make her smile like my brother does. I wish she was not always mad at me. I wish she could relax and understand. I love my mom but, being her son makes me constantly feel like a failure.

%d bloggers like this: