For the love of a child…..

My friend took this picture of my son and me four years ago – a few weeks after my mother was diagnosed with advanced cancer and I resigned from my job. In addition to my toddler son, I also had an 8-week-old newborn. Despair followed me everywhere as I thought about losing my mom. Worry constantly sat in the pit of my stomach as I agonized about how we were going to make ends meet on just one very small paycheque every month. I was potty-training a toddler and enduring sleepless nights with my new daughter. I felt as though my life was whirling all around me and I couldn’t focus on anything.

[Kids] breathe laughter and new life into us when we feel as though we have nothing left. They give us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. And yet, despite all of that, I’m smiling – beaming actually – in this picture. And you want to know why? Because of my children. They do that to me. To us. And they do that without even trying. They breathe laughter and new life into us when we feel as though we have nothing left. They give us exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. Of course, I would never tell them that . . . at least not right now. My kids don’t need to feel the burden of adult problems, but they really did – and do – help me through them. As a mom, I put on a brave face most of the time, even when I’m falling apart inside. And on those days, my kids make me laugh and smile, forcing me to see the good things in a mess of bad. On other days, I break down and cry, sometimes in front of them. I tell them that adults get sad, too, and that it’s OK. And they somehow still work their innocent magic to make the hurt a little less heavy.

You might not even realize how much they’re helping you through something in the moment, like I didn’t. But one day, you’ll find a picture of you smiling and think, “I thought that was one of the darkest days of my life,” like I did. And even if it was one of the worst days, you’ll know that just the presence of your sweet child helped you – even if that was your only smile of the day. You’ll realize that no matter what may happen or come your way, your kids will be there to help soften the blow just by being kids.

I look back at this picture often and remember little moments with my children that helped me get through that time in my life I never thought I would. I remember when my son made my daughter belly-laugh for the first time. I remember my son pooping on the potty and squealing at the top of his lungs. I remember my daughter sticking her tongue out when I’d give her new foods to try. These memories are so dear to me. And while I would have had them anyway, they stick out so much more because of what was going on around me. Those children and their smiles carried me through. I am indebted to them for that.

The next time life knocks me off my balance, which it inevitably will, I know I can just look at my children to help steady myself again. I won’t ask them for help, because they’ll give it to me in their own special ways. Maybe my son will say, “I love you, Mom,” in a silly voice. Maybe my daughter will ask for one more hug before bedtime. Maybe they’ll both giggle at something together in the other room. And in those moments, I’ll know that everything will be just fine.


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