Just trying to get through each day consumes most parents' time, attention, and energy. Consequently, one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is time— a special time when they really focus on what children are saying; when they listen to not only the words, but the feelings that generate them.
After my relapse at age 13, the chemotherapy was much more difficult to tolerate. My appearance changed dramatically due to hair loss and rapid weight gain from prednisone. The L-asparaginase made my legs stiff and sore, so that it was difficult to walk. After a two-month absence, when I returned to school, the treatment I received from the other students was unbearable. I finally refused to go to school. I felt so strongly about not going to school that once, on the way there, I jumped out of the car at an intersection. This helped mom and dad make the decision to send me to a private school. The kids and staff at the new school knew my situation and were very compassionate. The decision to change schools was one of the best things my parents ever did for me.
When my daughter was 7 years old, three years after her treatment ended, I realized how important it was to keep listening. She was complaining about a hangnail and I told her that I would cut it for her She started to yell that I would hurt her. I asked her, "When have I ever hurt you?" and she said, "In the hospital." I sat down with her in my arms, rocked her, and explained what had happened in the hospital during her treatment, why we had to bring her, and how we felt about it. I told her that I cried along with her when she was hurt by procedures. I asked her to tell me her feelings about being there. We cleared the air that day, and I expect we will need to talk about it many more times in the future. Then she held out her hand so that I could cut off her hangnail.
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