Thursday, May 30, 2013

Young Care Givers - Painting the Picture

While sitting in our car, waiting for my husband to get some high efficiency detergent from our least favourite store in the world, I was listening to CBC Radio. Playing was a documentary about young care givers, Care for the Young.

After two minutes, my eyes were filled with tears. The story was my life.

My precious baby boy, affectionately nicknamed TroubleMaker, is a young care giver and I had absolutely no idea that he was. Selfishly, not once (until today), have I ever considered the lasting impact my chronic health problems have on him. The extra demands placed on him, the level of commitment we expect from him (and to the family) and the impact seeing his mother always in pain and unable to actively participate in his life. This list goes on, of course, of the ways my health affects him and his life.

I have rheumatoid arthritis, I was diagnosed when I was 31 and although I wasn't 'too sick' when we decided to start our family, I didn't fully understand the impact my illness would later come to have on my young son. My decision - that's what hurts. He didn't ask to be born to a sick mother, I made that choice, thinking that I was healthy at the time, not realizing that my level of health may be fleeting. At the time, I took one anti-rheumatic drug and some ibuprofen and I was enjoying good health.

Five years later, I'm on five different anti-rheumatics and daily doses of anti-inflammatories and this just keeps me at a functional level. Couple that with my degenerative back disorder (two spinal fusions and counting) and depression and I am the furthest thing from healthy. I wouldn't choose this for anyone but I chose this for Brennan.

"Brennan, can you help Mommy?"
"Brennan, I need you to help me."
"Brennan, we need you to be extra helpful the next while I'm not doing so well."
"Brennan, I need you to be a big boy for me and do one more thing."

Did I mention he's five years old? He's a CHILD. He should be doing child like things.

Like riding bikes with me. Or chasing a soccer ball around the field with me. Or laying on the floor playing monster trucks or a board game or roughhousing with me.

But he can't, because I can't.

Instead he helps me get dressed. He helps me comb my hair. He helps me put my slippers and shoes on. He helps cook. He helps clean. He carries the 10kg bag of flour to the counter when we bake. He does it all, mostly, without complaint. 

Listening to Jenna's story, my heart hurt for Brennan and for all the young children who care for a sick or ailing parent. It's not an easy path they face, even if it is the only normal they've ever known.

I'm going to write more about young caregivers so please check back next Thursday for the next part of this series.


  1. I don't see that as a terrible thing. He does it because he loves you. To me, that is what family is for. And I'm sure he also has time to play and relax and do kid things too. :)

    1. Thanks for giving it some perspective, you are right, he gets plenty of time to do kid things (with his Dad when I can't do the playing). At the time, I felt like it was the worst thing ever. I know he's an instrumental part of the family and it has taught him more about empathy and commitment than anything he could have picked up 'on the street'. You can't always pick family, but I've got a good bunch of nuts in mine who always do what they can to help out.



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