It's been more than one year since my mother was diagnosed with late stage cervical cancer. The diagnosis turned our lives upside down and revealed the best and worst in me as I exchanged roles with her and became her caregiver.
It's definitely not a walk in the park, thats for sure; but as painful as the experience is I consider it a privilege to care for her. More importantly, I have learned seven life-changing parenting lessons I wouldn't learn hadn't I experienced the role reversal with her.
1. Your undivided and genuine attention is the best gift you can give to your kids.
My mother is a storyteller. Cancer didn't even stopped her from being one. Despite the struggle to utter words (there wasn't a moment you can't hear her gasping for breath), she still talks and tells stories. I sometimes want to rush her to finish talking but I've learned not to (and what a struggle it has been for me).
I believe it's the same thing parents should do when their little kids talk. We should take a moment to stop and give them our undivided attention. We should allow them to express themselves and take their time in doing so because they deserve as much respect as adults do.
2. Optimism and hope go a long way.
If you know someone who's been or who is currently in Cancer Land, they'll tell you how there's not much hope in such a place. But if you get to talk to my mom, you'll see how it's possible to live despite the fact that you're dying. She's always kept a hopeful and optimistic attitude in her, which helped her cope with life's most difficult situations.
With this said, it matters a lot to help our kids learn to see the good in every thing. The intention is not to undermine the challenges that they may face but to help them develop a sense of gratitude early on in life, making them more able to handle the challenges of today and the future.
3. Kids grow when you suppress your parental instinct to protect.
There had been so many times I've wanted to be the one to bear the pain when variety of meds are administered to my mom during her treatments. But I know it's a battle she has to go through alone. I can only help by providing moral support and ensuring every procedure done on her is correct.
It's the same thing with raising children. You can't always be there for them. You can't always shield them from anything that may hurt them. They have to explore the world and learn how it works on their own. The most we can do is provide guidance and love as much as possible.
4. There's no such thing as perfect parenting.
Or perfect parents. I've always committed mistakes in "parenting" my mom. The same thing goes while I'm raising my now two-year-old kid. While I've always aimed to be a great mother, I realize I'm just human and I can't be supermom in a real life setting. Coming to terms with this fact has helped me not be so hard on myself and so critical of my own parenting style (and of other parents').
5. Appreciate even the most annoying things.
I always get annoyed when our house is a mess. It's one of my pet peeves. Another thing is when the house is full of noise. However, I realized that there will come a day when the house won't be messy and noisy anymore. So before that day comes, I'll do my best to deal with all the mess and noise, for they're signs that the two most important people in my life are alive and kicking.
6. Cheering up is essential to staying sane.
Parenting can be exhausting and quite unnerving at times. I've proven this as I've exchanged roles with my mother while raising Arwen. Nonetheless, I survive one day at a time all because I cheer them up when necessary. More importantly, I also cheer myself up as weird as that sounds, most especially when there are no other mom friends and family who can do that for me. I've learned to create joy even in the most gloomy atmospheres because I needed to stay sane.
7. Your faith will help you endure.
Despite being a Christian, I have my weak moments. I can sometimes swim and sink in a very negative place, especially when I get overwhelmed with parenting both my mother and my daughter. But my faith in God is the reason I've always been able to rise up over all the challenges parenting and life in general bring. I have always prayed for guidance and strength when things get tough because I know it's only through God's help will I be able to survive everything.