Maggie wrote and planned to perform this piece for Expressing Motherhood, a live show that ran in Burlington, Vermont on 11/9 & 11/10. She passed before she had the chance…
Do you know there are quizzes that you can take to determine which type of mom you are?
You’ve got your Hot Mess Mom, your Crunchy Mom, your PTA Mom, your Parenting Expert mom. You’ve got your Type A Moms and your Homeschooling Moms. You’ve got Tiger Moms and your Elephant Moms and your Mama Bears.
I’m not any of these.
I’m a sick mom. I’m a mom with terminal cancer. I’m a mom that may not get to see her kids grow up, but hopes she does. I’m a warrior mom. When I explain myself, you are going to understand me. You are going to, “Know what I mean,” but we aren’t the same. You are going to walk out of this theater, and go home and squeeze your kids and think about how lucky you are to not be a sick mom. And I hope you never have to know what it’s like to be one.
When I first was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, I asked my therapist, “Where are the other parents with cancer? I need to talk to them.” But there was no group. There was no expert. I scoured the internet for resources and only came across memoirs written by other parents who had cancer or something else like it. Stories that ended in death and sadness. Or stories that ended with survival. Lucky them.
So, I’ve been making up my mom prototype as I go along. Trying to figure out what the right way to parent is at every step of the game. And listen– I am crushing it. I’m putting the “sick” back in sick.
Here’s one thing that happens when you have a terminal disease with a limited to unknown life expectancy, but you have to keep parenting. You stop giving a fuck about things that don’t actually matter. For instance, I would rather actually die than sit in a parenting group with a woman who never let her children play with plastic toys unless she was certain that there was absolutely no BPA in them and that these toys weren’t made in China. Additionally, I don’t care how you feed your child- breast milk, formula, baby-led whatever the fuck it’s called. I just hope your child is full and happy, and you don’t feel stressed out about feeding that baby and that you get to see your sweet baby grow into an incredible adult human.
You should do what you think is best for your kid and you should shut up about what you think is best for others.
When you are going to die, but you have to keep parenting, you inhale every moment of your precious children. You observe them as they insist on making lemonade in the kitchen by themselves without your help and they slop sticky liquid all over the counter, only to abandon the mess when they are through. Slamming the screen door on their way out to the yard to jump on the trampoline. “Come watch me, mom,” they yell. You close your eyes and you think, “These the are the memories I hope they hold on to.” And you smile to yourself that these memories of you will sustain them when they are similarly teaching their own child the magic of fresh-squeezed lemonade. You follow them out to the yard.
Later on, when you want to be preparing dinner, but first must clean up the now dried, but still sticky lemonade dregs off the counter and your child comes in and whines for a snack, you offer them a carrot, because you’ll be having dinner in 30 minutes. But they don’t want a carrot. They want something else. Something delicious. Something they can’t suggest and you don’t have anyhow. You list the options: a cheese stick, some peanuts, an apple.
“No. No. NO,” they say.
I yell at my kids. And then I feel guilty as hell and I apologize. And then I yell at them again. But that time, maybe I don’t feel guilty because they should not be spoiled fricken brats! And everyone yells at their children. Oh no? Not you? Well, ya liar, you must have pretty special children, because mine deserve to be yelled at.
I know what you are thinking. How can she be yelling at her children when she should be cherishing the precious time she has with them before she dies. Believe me, that runs through my mind too. I should be cherishing my “precious time.”
Ugh. Shut up.
This reminds me of those endlessly sleepless nights with newborns, when strangers tell you to cherish the fleeting moments, and you want to throat punch them. Except my time really is precious and maybe those strangers are onto something.
Still, I am not going to the Sick Mom, and let my kids act like jerks because I am savoring my precious moments with them. None of us benefit from that farce.
This is the part where you know what I mean, but we aren’t the same. So, go on home and squeeze your kids. Take your parenting quiz and figure out what type of mom you are, or maybe you already know. I know. I’m the sick mom, and I am telling you…