To The Kids Who've Had To Be Caregivers, Too

To The Kids Who've Had To Be Caregivers, Too

You are strong. You are loved. You are an inspiration.
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To the Kids Who’ve Had to be a Caregiver,

There is nothing worse than being told that someone you love, someone close to you is terminally ill. Argue me on this statement because this is hands down the worst of news one can hear in their lifetime. Chances are, you heard those words before you really understood what they meant. Perhaps the one thing that can be harder than hearing this bad news, is having to witness it in action. Having to watch your loved one deteriorate physically, mentally, and emotionally. But having to withhold yourself and make sure you are strong enough to pick up the pieces.

For me, it started at 12 years old. This can be a common age. You’re old enough to understand and process things but young enough to have your innocence stripped away from you. For many caregivers, they are forced to grow up overnight and deal with situations most adults don’t have to go through for years to come. I myself became the caregiver to my father. Someone who was the breadwinner of our family, who was the center and rock of us all. Common enough for caregivers, the tables turn and you become the person who has to support and take care of the person who once held that responsibility.

Similar to many things in life there is no guide or “how to” step by step directional piece of information that will tell you how to do things, when to do things, and when specific stages will occur. It’s up to you as the individual to test the waters and make sure you can do all you can to hopefully lead them to a healing state. Your first hope is to believe that you have the power to heal them and rid of whatever illness is making them a slave to such a horrendous situation. When you realize that the human body is sometimes inevitable against fighting in battles they cannot handle, your main goal and concern is to constantly bring them to a state of comfort, relaxation, and mental ease, for that’s all they will be capable of knowing for the rest of the time being.

Of course being the patient battling the disease is as hard of a task as can be. But people forget and surpass the strength of the caregiver and their abilities for helping the patient cope with their state. We forget the mental stability it takes to not only be strong enough for one’s self but to not allow the sick patient see you fail. The moment the patient sees such, they realize they are a burden on your life and become guilty of what they are putting you through. The physical strength requires late nights, early mornings, and if you’re like me, having to help the patient with tasks that you see as ridiculous. Put yourself in their shoes and it’s not. My patient who developed into a quadriplegic was incapable of scratching an itch on his forehead, blowing his own nose, and going to the bathroom. Such instances can occur as many as 500 times in a night, and as little as 5. Every night is a different routine and you must adjust to such. Lastly, you must know sacrifice. You have to give up what is important to you and you must adjust to living a life that is not your own. I’ve known caregivers who have given up a steady income because they couldn’t manage the schedule of their job. Some have had to give up school because the course load of classes on top of taking care of someone was unbearable. Sometimes you question if you could be a teenage parent because at least in those situations a child would grow to be self-sufficient.

For me, I gave up a social life. It sounds petty now but put yourself in a 12 or 13 year-olds shoes. All your classmates get cell phones and start planning to hang out and go to the movies. Our town started developing a shopping center with a Jamba juice and movie theater. Let me tell you on a Friday night that was the thing to do with a group of 13-year-olds. But I never got to do so. For three years I gave up hanging out with friends and going to see the newest movies so I could stay at home and take care of my dad. My mom, who was always working to provide financial stability, was gone and I had to take the place of cooking, cleaning, and everything around the house, all while taking care of my father’s medical needs. Sure it sounds like a sob story now. But being a caregiver was the greatest role I’ve ever played in my life. It taught me about sacrifice. It taught me about selflessness, compassion, and most importantly love. Sure I cursed myself and the universe for putting me in this situation on numerous occasions. But what I received out of it weighed to be more than what I missed because of it.

So to those of you who were once a caregiver, maybe you are currently, and maybe you one day will be, thank you. Being a kid isn’t easy. Remembering to be one is even harder. When the universe strips your childhood away from you and makes you grow up overnight, do not curse it. Rather, take it on as another challenge that you will succeed at. Remember that you are loved. You are shaping yourself to be a better person than when you started. Believe me, the person you are caretaking for did not want you in this situation. They don’t want anyone in this situation. But you were chosen to be the strong soldier to face this battle. Although you may never receive a verbal thank you or a pat on the back; know that it goes without being said. You are strong. You are loved. You are an inspiration.

Sincerely,

A Former Caregiver

Cover Image Credit: AARP

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To The Dad Who Didn't Want Me, It's Mutual Now

Thank you for leaving me because I am happy.
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Thank you, for leaving me.

Thank you, for leaving me when I was little.

Thank you, for not putting me through the pain of watching you leave.

Thank you, for leaving me with the best mother a daughter could ask for.

I no longer resent you. I no longer feel anger towards you. I wondered for so long who I was. I thought that because I didn't know half of my blood that I was somehow missing something. I thought that who you were defined me. I was wrong. I am my own person. I am strong and capable and you have nothing to do with that. So thank you for leaving me.

In my most vulnerable of times, I struggled with the fact that you didn't want me. You could have watched me grow into the person that I have become, but you didn't. You had a choice to be in my life. I thought that the fact that my own father didn't want me spoke to my own worth. I was wrong. I am so worthy. I am deserving, and you have nothing to do with that. So thank you for leaving me.

You have missed so much. From my first dance to my first day of college, and you'll continue to miss everything. You won't see me graduate, you won't walk me down the aisle, and you won't get to see me follow my dreams. You'll never get that back, but I don't care anymore. What I have been through, and the struggles that I have faced have brought me to where I am today, and I can't complain. I go to a beautiful school, I have the best of friends, I have an amazing family, and that's all I really need.

Whoever you are, I hope you read this. I hope you understand that you have missed out on one of the best opportunities in your life. I could've been your daughter. I could have been your little girl. Now I am neither, nor will I ever be.

So thank you for leaving me because I am happy. I understand my self-worth, and I understand that you don't define me. You have made me stronger. You have helped make me who I am without even knowing it.

So, thank you for leaving me.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Mom And Dad, Your Differences Made Me Who I Am

They are two halves of the person I aspire to be — a thoughtful person, committed to excellence in each of her areas of passion, who is hungry to build upon the extensive base of experiences that she has acquired to date.

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My parents, the most important factors in shaping who I am, are a mosaic of juxtaposed perspectives, a tribute to the notion that "opposites attract." Dad once tried to explain their differences in the language of the Myers-Briggs personality inventory; his introversion versus Mom's extraversion, his thinking to her feeling, etc. Labels aside, the consequence of living with their differences was balance and an ability to place equal value on both breadth and depth in any aspect of life.

Nothing underscored competing for parental influences in our household better than the typical dinner conversation around the events of the school day. I'd usually lead with news of some test result. Mom would be quick to congratulate my good work while deflecting the conversation toward upcoming social events or some drama involving my friends. Dad preferred to discuss the specific problems I missed, even if 97% were correct.

Over time, I came to realize that Mom's seemingly dismissive attitude toward academic achievement was not meant to minimize its importance. To her, what went on in the world of human relationships beyond the classroom, was equally important. Similarly, Dad's insistence on reviewing every incorrect problem was not indicative of some ridiculously high standard of achievement. Instead, it was his way of communicating the value of always striving to be better and the importance of treating every mistake as an opportunity to learn.

Extracurriculars, like sports, were also illustrative of this household dichotomy. Mom would encourage me to join as many different activities as possible, just to give them a try. In the heart of the club spring soccer season, she'd sign me up for golf lessons, a charity 5K run, or volunteer my time to tutor a neighbor's friend. Dad cared more about mastery of specific sports. Quick to point out areas for improvement, he pushed me to excel through relentless practice and total commitment.

It was often difficult to reconcile Mom's push for diversification and Dad's push for focus, but I eventually realized that each was acting in what they perceived to be in my best interests. Mom wasn't tired of sitting on wet, soggy sidelines, she wanted me to have a broad range of experiences so I could find my true passions. Her mantra was that you couldn't know unless you try. Dad didn't push me to constantly practice because he expected me to get a soccer scholarship. Rather he wanted me to understand the work that it takes to achieve excellence.

Much to Dad's vexation, Mom often scheduled activities that interfered with practice times. We'd routinely go on vacation a few days early or to take a night off to see a play. Summer vacations were sacred and trumped any other commitments. The day school was out we would leave for the east coast and not return until just before school began. Lengthy absences meant leaving all commitments behind, including summer training seasons.

Dad never overtly opposed Mom's summer plans, but I knew he was troubled by them. Excellence required a commitment that was not compatible with being absent for several months each year. Mom was not against sports or the commitment they required, but she placed supreme value on the exposures and experiences that a summer of travel could offer.

Over time, I learned to live fully in each of my parents' worlds. When it was time to study or practice, I gave everything I had. Equally, I joined Mom's adventures, with eager eyes and a full heart. I learned that there is not just one way to be raised or a single way to approach a situation. I was never made to choose between competing views in my household, I was challenged to fully embrace each. My parents' perspectives are less conflicting and more complimentary.

They are two halves of the person I aspire to be — a thoughtful person, committed to excellence in each of her areas of passion, who is hungry to build upon the extensive base of experiences that she has acquired to date. I hope to be as deep as I am broad, to be extremely flexible, and to be comfortable in the gray areas between the black and the white. Like my Mom, I engage the world around me and am fed by its energy, and like my Dad, I am introspective and fully at home in the world of ideas.

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