Mom empathy is real. I just arrived back from the pediatrician today with my 26-month-old and he has an ear infection in his right ear, no fever, a severe runny nose due to this relentless winter and conjunctivitis (AKA “pink eye”) in both eyes. Nothing incurable or long term, yet still I’m a mess. I only drank water and some juice today, because I couldn’t stomach breakfast or anything else until now, and it’s 3 PM.
It’s surprising that I’m feeling so sensitive and shocked at my vulnerability as these are just garden-variety toddlerhood illnesses. But somehow I got a bit of a stomach ache and felt quite sad when I saw his teary, red swollen eyes. This evening I started to feel a little off and had a sore throat and some congestion. I’m wondering if it’s because I’ve been taking care of him and surrounded by all his germs or if an empathy response is at play.
I’m actually quite familiar with the empathy response when an illness or accident strikes because I have it with my sister. Although we’re not twins and nearly three years apart, we possess a nearly twin-like connection and often discover the same things at the same time, do something similar even when we’re thousands of miles apart and even have an almost identical palate. In addition we’re practically the same height, same size in clothing, have the same coloring and extremely similar features. I often joke that we’re twins, but just “born different years”, which usually results in confusion or the stank eye! Once when she was badly burned I felt her pain in the same body part. So perhaps I’m feeling something similar with my son.
I’m quite a health nut and am used to being extremely healthy. So, it’s sometimes difficult for me to handle sickness, especially when it’s my family. Fortunately, my son isn’t sick often and he didn’t have his first cold until he was ten months. He hasn’t suffered from anything serious and he even escaped this flu season unscathed. I do work to keep him healthy- I nursed him exclusively for the first eight months and am still nursing him one to two times per day at 26 months. I give him daily immune support supplements, try to stick to a bedtime routine and nap schedule, feed him organic food and keep white sugar and white flour at bay.
But he’s a toddler and getting sick is par for the course.
He’s also rambunctious, so accidents are bound to happen. He’s already had his share of mishaps. Some were my fault and some due to him learning and exploring his environment. This is all inevitable though. I just never thought of all this and I haven’t been around many little ones, so, how should I know?! It’s a learning curve for both of us, we’re growing up together. Despite being an adult for a long time it sometimes doesn’t feel like I’ve been an adult until now. Going forward, I can use mom empathy to my advantage and try to anticipate potential hazards and stick to my guns when I know something is dangerous.
If your infant or child is suffering from a short-term illness (flu, head cold, etc) it’s tough to bear. If they’re suffering from a long-term health condition or life-threatening illness that’s even harrowing and I’m humbled. I honestly can’t imagine the heartache, familial stress and other challenges you face and am in awe of your resilience. It takes strength, courage, perseverance, faith and more to get through it. I’m not sure if and how I’d handle it!
But I realize you can’t protect your children at every turn or from life, that’s impossible and ridiculous. It’s their job to push boundaries, fall, fail, try again and yes, get sick too. So I’ll continue to keep our family as healthy as possible. And try to relax when he does get sick and keep my mom empathy under control so that I can eat breakfast!
Monique Marco is an Ashtanga-based vinyasa yoga teacher who loves urban life and etas dark chocolate every day. She’s also a certified make-up artist and image consultant specializing in natural skin-care, beauty and eco-fashion.
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