I’m guessing we could substitute ‘ankles’ with a ton of different body parts, but I decided I’d post about my recent ‘pain in the ankles,’ discussion I had with my kids. It wasn’t really a discussion; I tried to make it a discussion, but they are 13 & 17, so it’s more like me telling them a story and them impatiently waiting to go back to whatever they were arguing about. Although I must give them both credit; I think they are more than patient and understanding considering their mom is nowhere close to who she used to be. And, I think that’s, in part, because I make sure to talk to them.
As many of you probably experience, stress is probably the most obvious source of pain for me. You know what I’m talking about-a deadline is approaching, you’re running late for a meeting, your kids are yelling at each other, and you can feel pain begin to play it’s ugly game. For me, it’s my elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles. It’s as if my body knows I’m stressed before my brain does, and once my brain realizes that the piercing & throbbing is tip-toeing towards my extremities, it’s too late. I’ve let it go to far, I’ve procrastinated too long, I left too late, and I let the kids argue behind me for just a little too long, and now I’m going to pay for it.
Obviously, the first two examples I gave are on me-I’ve got to do better at prioritizing the things I need ( and want) to do, so that I am not stressing out at the last minute. Same goes for pushing my time…I’ve got to start giving myself extra time when going to meetings & appointments. But, the last example? That’s on them, BUT it’s my job to tell them how they can help.
So, the other day after having a tough day already, I was heading to my bedroom around 8:00 like usual( I can’t remember staying up past 9:00 on a weeknight anymore), and I could hear my kids arguing about something pointless…probably one of them looked at the other one or something like that. It wasn’t even a big fight, but they were using ugly tones and words that they know I don’t like, and simply competing for who could say the meanest thing to the other. It was over in two minutes or less, and concluded with their doors being shut for the rest of the night.
I had already been feeling the results of long day, so I began running a hot bath as my elbows and knees began to throb, all while thinking about how my kids know better than to act the way they were. And, also reminding myself that most siblings argue; most of them over dumb things, and they get over it and move on. But, our house isn’t just any house anymore-not since fibro moved in with us- and even though it’s no fault of theirs, I decided to remind them the next day.
It was no Dr. Phil consultation, but I will say that it felt good to talk to them, and i know they heard me. It went a little something like this:
‘So do you remember a couple of years ago when we all sat down and talked about fibromyalgia & the way that my nerves are extra sensitive?’
‘Ya.’ (they are full of feedback these days.)
‘Well, I think you could help me out some, and I want to ask you a favor. And, that favor is, to try to stop and think before you argue or yell or slam doors. And, don’t just think about how what a waste of time it is for you to say ugly things to each other and call each other names. Also, consider why you are wasting your energy on such a silly process that ends in no winner. And, then, think of me once in awhile.’
‘Ok…?’ (crazy how fluent they are in two-letter phrases, isn’t it?)
So, to try to relate a little better, I asked a question, ‘Would either of you ever slam my arm in a car door on purpose? Or run over my knees with a motorcycle? Or hit me in the ankles with a hammer over and over?’ Of course, I am looking like a crazy person at this point, but it gets better.
When they looked at me in confusion, I said, ‘When you guys argue or yell or slam doors, when you guys behave in a way that hurts one another, and when I see either of you hurt, or see either of you intentionally hurt anyone else-let alone each other-I literally feel like my ankles are being beaten with a hammer. Sometimes, I feel as if my knees have been run over and my arms crushed by a car door. And, unlike your feelings that probably aren’t even dented for more than a minute or two after your confrontation, sometimes I can’t sleep because I am left in so much pain. And sometimes that little argument you’ve already forgotten is still affecting me the next day. When you all treat each other badly, it’s as if you are running me over. Your behavior is, quite literally, a pain in my ankles.’
Now, to say that since that day I’ve been living in a fairy tale would be a lie. Just last night, I heard my daughter shout to my son and him yell back at her to, ‘Get out!’ I was a high school teacher for over 10 years-I realize that their hormones will overpower their common sense for quite some time. But, I will tell you this.
Immediately following my analogy, I saw them look at each other and at me with very sorrowful eyes, of course apologizing, and telling me they will do better at considering the impact their behavior has on my illness, on their mom. They didn’t even have to tell me that they would never hurt me on purpose-I could tell by the tears they held in their eyes how bad they felt about what they’d been doing for so long without even knowing. But, even better than that, they spent a few more minutes with me, asked a few questions and we talked a little more about fibromyalgia, my pain, and how it’s impacted our family. It gave me a chance to also apologize to them and acknowledge how amazing they are for doing their best to adjust to a different lifestyle, a different mom.
Long story, short-I recommend you talk to your family, especially your kids, about how they can help you. And, do it the next morning or the next week-not in the heat of the moment. Give them specific examples, and be frank with them if they are old enough to go there. And, of course, thank them for loving you just the way you are.
Let’s face it, most kids really do try their best to make us proud, to see us smile at them, to be appreciated, and if they know what a positive impact simple changes in their behavior can have on your life, I think they will all try a little harder. I think we all do.
Enjoy your journey. ~Angie