We are excited to feature a moving friendship essay today from Jamie Krug. Jamie writes candidly about her family’s unique story on her blog, Our Stroke of Luck, and is a regular contributor to Huffington Post. Has a close friend ever helped you to see yourself from a different perspective?
Today, I had a long overdue conversation with my best friend in the world… Nothing remarkable was planned for this chat, and we really just spoke about what’s going on in our lives. She’s telling me about the unfortunate and coincidental timing of her gutted kitchen setup looking eerily similar to one of the “kill rooms” Dexter set up the night before during their completion of a marathon viewing of the previous season, and I’m talking/complaining/freaking out about what’s going on with Parker and Owen right now. Parker has Psoriatic Arthritis and Sensory Processing Disorder. Add to that having a brother with special needs and it’s a lot for a not-quite five year-old to take.
Her three and a half year old brother Owen had a stroke in utero and has Cerebral Palsy. To put it so succinctly in one simple sentence seems almost laughable based on how complicated the circumstances around his birth turned out, and the equally unsure footing I’ve felt as a parent ever since. He has a long road ahead of him, and our entire family will be on that road with him. And I consider Rachel to be part of that family.
And then she said it.
Rachel told me that I was a wonderful mother and that she hoped I knew it. She told me that she looked up to me and my parenting. I was so taken aback that I almost simultaneously burst out laughing and began bawling. Instead, I do what I’ve been doing for the past eleven months or so – I tried to shrug it off. I’m not comfortable with people telling me I’m a good mother, or doing a good job, etc. There is an unease about it for me that I actually can put my finger on, but am choosing not to at this point.
It was different when Rachel said it to me though. We are peers and equals, each with our own strengths and weaknesses of character, but I have looked up to Rachel since high school. She has (at least in my eyes) seamlessly achieved her goals along the path I wish I had taken. You know, the easy one – in a straight line. My path has meandered a bit – taken a right, or was that a left? A few u-turns thrown in, and a lot of parallel parking. I’ve clearly taken the metaphor too far, but I’m committed at this point so I need to run with it (or should I say drive the point home?)…
She is my equal, yes – but she was always the glue that held me together. We used to joke around that if she decided to go into psychology, her “real-world” experience treating me should allow her to skip her internship altogether. We have been through a lot together. There are things that Rachel knows about me that Scott likely doesn’t. Yet another wonderful thing about the man that I married, is that Scott respects that and has no problem stepping aside when he knows that she is better “schooled” on that aspect of me or my life, past, etc. There are situations where her advice is more meaningful to me than his may be based solely on the fact that she has always been there and might know more about the history of a particular situation. I will say that again because it is important – she has always been there.
Rachel will give it to me straight, too. She is definitely not a “smoke blower”. She looks out for me, but has no problem putting me in my place when she feels I’m wrong. I’d like to think I do the same for her. Honesty and friendship like that is a rare gift. So is someone breaking you of your life-long insecurity-based habit of apologizing to everyone for everything – she did it by telling me to f**k myself every single time I said “I’m sorry” to her for anything she deemed unnecessary of an apology. There were a lot of F-bombs dropped during our conversations for a while, but I finally got it.
For this fantastic woman – my dearest friend – whom I love like a sister and respect beyond words, to tell me that there was something about me that she looked up to, well, it made me take notice. Maybe I am a good mother. Perhaps better than my doubts will allow me to accept. Maybe “just doing the best that I can” is enough.
I know I’m not the only mother out there to wonder if she’s doing a good job. The difference here is that I genuinely feel (and I think I’m correct about this on some level) that the success and health of my children is riding on it in a different way than the average parent. The pressure I feel is enormous. To be honest, some days I’m not sure if I’m going to crack or explode! Am I bringing Owen to the right therapists? Am I doing enough with him at home? Is there someone else out there that I should/could be having him treated by? Is Parker getting the right amount of therapy? Do I need to change her preschool to one that will be more accommodating to her needs? What can I be doing at home to help her? What am I doing at home that is potentially exacerbating this and how do I know the difference?
When Parker was little, before Owen came along, I remember wringing my hands over whether or not to change pediatricians… The differences likely being subtle between the practices I was considering, I’m looking back now at that naive woman who thought she had a really difficult decision and chuckling sadly. Now, making a decision to change practitioners for Owen could mean the difference between him walking or not – and if so, with or without a limp. If I choose the wrong therapist, I am taking the risk that he will not have full use of his hands, or speak properly, or eat solid foods before he’s five. I try as hard as I can not to think about the immense implications of the decisions I make on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, but the truth is still there – these seemingly small decisions have gigantic consequences down the road.
I do not want to put aside my partner in this – Scott. He is incredible and is definitely in on all of the major decisions, and about a million more of the minor ones than he likely needs to be. He is my anchor, but I steer the ship. I am their mother. I am home all day long with them, making all of the microscopic decisions, that individually might not make a difference, but as a conglomerate likely will.
I am doing the best I can, and maybe – just maybe – it’s more than just good enough. Maybe, it’s just plain good. Somehow, though I’ve been hearing it for months now from other people, hearing it from Rachel makes me a little bit closer to believing that it might be true. If she was just saying it to make me feel better, well, she can go f**k herself.
Jamie Krug is a stay-at-home-mom with a full-time job as the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) of her family. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post where she is a regular contributor. She is mother to an inquisitive daughter named Parker and the mischievous-grinned Owen.Her blog, http://www.OurStrokeOfLuck.net, tells the story of her family’s day-to-day struggles and triumphs in the wake of the devastating and still largely misunderstood rare diagnosis her son received at birth.She prides (embarrasses?) herself by stating out loud what other mothers may feel but wouldn’t dare say…You can follow Jamie on Twitter @OurStrokeOfLuck or on her Facebook Page for Our Stroke Of Luck.