Parent Pathways

Parent Pathways: Counting my blessings, despite a tough year

October 21, 2013 

I haven’t written as many personal columns this year because, frankly, this year has been hard.

Some years bring you to your knees, I guess. I’m not sure; I’ve never had one quite like this.

Both of my parents have been dealing with serious illnesses, and I’ve found myself suddenly caught in the “sandwich generation,” straddling the duties of caring for a parent and a child, juggling work and household responsibilities, crying at stoplights in the middle of the day.

It hasn’t been easy. I didn’t know I had so many tears.

The silver lining is that once you’ve endured enough parking decks, emergency room visits, scary diagnoses, tests, treatments, side effects and home health care nurses, the stuff you used to worry about seems pretty silly.

Like school track-out sessions. I used to say the word “track-out” like Jerry Seinfeld used to say “Newman.”

It’s actually been OK this time, however. That could be because my 10-year-old son simply agrees with everything I say.

“We’re going to read every day, I swear,” I say. “You better be ready.”


Or: “You better get down here this minute! This is the third time I’ve asked you. No more screen time for the rest of the day!”

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

That boy has figured me out. Right when I’m ready to unleash my frustration, dole out punishments and teach lessons, he shuts me down with apologies and agreements. Oh, I know there will be push-back and protests, probably very soon, so I’m enjoying this while it lasts. When he gets unruly, I threaten track-out camp, and that gets him back in line.

Occasionally, I’ll add “Go clean the bathroom!” And he does that, too. I’m particularly enjoying that little bonus.

With so much else on my plate, maybe I’ve learned to relax a little about what he’s doing and not doing. As my sister said, “Just enjoy him.”

And if he plays too many video games a few days during track-out while I work, so be it. That sounds bad, but there it is. We do a lot of productive, efficient stuff, and some days, I just need a break.

My husband’s been amazing – picking up the slack and letting me dissolve when I need to. One day he rescued me from the hospital parking lot. I had a dead battery, and it just about sent me over the edge after being in the emergency room all night.

He gave me a big hug and let me wipe my face on his shirt.

“Go home and go to bed,” he told me. I did. Right after I ate a big bowl of ice cream. So there.

Another bright spot: Madge. Our 10-month-old Great Pyrenees/black Lab mix weighs 80 pounds now. Madge, the $100 shelter dog that ended up needing a $1,300 surgery at 8 months old, but, oh my, how I love that dog.

It’s sinful how much I love that dog. She had to wear the cone of shame after her surgery. We couldn’t bear to make her sleep in her crate with the cone on. Her book, “How to Go From the Crate to the Bed in Six Weeks” should be out soon.

She’s a bed hog, and her heft numbs my legs regularly. She eats my son. She chews the laundry while I fold it, and I’ve lost one phone charger and four pairs of shoes to her pearly puppy teeth. But that dog follows me with her big cow eyes and sits with me when I’m sad. And when I’m happy.

And she rides in the car with me and looks at me adoringly, and it’s just too much. Too much blessing in one dog.

I walk her every day. Some days we’ll pass by a farm with big black cows grazing by the road, and she just knows she is one of them; she’s just a little smaller, but otherwise they look the same. And she cranes her head in their direction until she can’t see them anymore.

“Maybe next time,” I tell her.

And now, look how long I’ve gone on when I didn’t know where to start. Maybe that’s what counting blessings is all about – taking our mind off the hard things and focusing on those things that help us endure.

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