Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Sick Kids
It’s been a rough week at our house. Just as I was getting over my month-long cold, my daughters got sick. It started last Friday with a bad case of conjunctivitis in my two-year old’s left eye. The next day my four-year old’s right eye was red and swollen, and by that evening they had both spiked fevers. My husband flew across the country on a business trip the following afternoon.
We spent the next thirty-six hours almost entirely cooped up in our tiny house. We did go for a walk on Monday morning; it was a beautiful day and the girls rode in the stroller, bundled in soft brown blankets and equipped with sippy cups and extra tissues. Nonetheless, they were fussy and crying by the time we got home half an hour later. We made towers out of blocks and necklaces out of beads, we read books and drew pictures. It was all fun enough, but by Tuesday afternoon, I was exhausted and grumpy, desperate for space and silence. I put the girls in front of the TV and went to take a shower.
As I searched for a clean towel, I bemoaned the piles of dirty laundry that had been left unattended. I worried about what to feed the girls for dinner; they hadn’t wanted anything but yogurt since getting sick. I stressed about looming deadlines that I might not be able to meet. I felt annoyed at my husband for being gone when our daughters weren’t well. I felt jealous that he got quiet time alone on an airplane, that he got to sleep in a hotel room, far away from two little ones that were waking up several times a night because they couldn’t find their tissues or loveys. I worried that the girls might end up screaming while I was in the shower.
I resolved to let these thoughts go and stay focused on my breathing. It all started out well, as I paid attention to the sensation of my breath moving in and out of my nose. A few seconds later (yes, it was literally just a few seconds), my mind wandered. I was shocked and pleased to realize it landed in a place of gratitude. All of a sudden, I was thinking about how fortunate I am that the girls aren’t sicker, that I was able to get them a doctor’s appointment within a few hours of calling, and that we have health insurance to help pay for all of it. Even though I had previously felt annoyed that my husband had to travel for work, in that moment, I was grateful that he has a good job. I thought about how lucky I am to be able to work from home, and be with my girls when they need me. I was thankful for high quality children’s television programming that gave me a chance to take a shower and have a cup of coffee without the girls nagging me for attention. And I realized that as much as I envied my husband’s quiet hotel room, the reality is that when my children are sick and wanting Mommy snuggles, there’s nowhere I would rather be than with them.
Mindfulness and gratitude everything.
And yet they change nothing. The girls were still feverish and snotty, the laundry was still dirty, and my deadlines were still on the horizon. But my perspective on all of it was completely different. As I headed downstairs after my shower, I was still tired and eager to get back to our regular routine. But my fuse had been lengthened just a bit, just enough so that I could be more patient and more kind with my daughters. I was able to remember that this, too, would pass, and that we’d come out on the other side just fine. I knew we’d get through yet another afternoon of Daniel Tiger reruns and Fancy Nancy stories and swaddling baby dolls in dish cloths. When you think about it, that’s not a bad way to spend a day.
Naumburg, C. (2012). Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Sick Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 29, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindful-parenting/2012/12/mindfulness-gratitude-sick-kids/