Harvey, my (sometimes) darling, not so little, 6 (and 3 quarter) year old, means the absolute world to me but as you can imagine, raising a child single handedly is not for the faint hearted. He is a big, mass of energy and excitement. He’s head strong, stubborn (wonder where he gets that from…) and knows exactly how to get pretty much anything he wants. Which is fine, all round a ‘normal’ 6 year old boy I hear you say? Well when I’ve had a solid nights sleep, am well nourished and totally up for a challenge and have the mental strength to keep my cool (the irony) it’s an absolute blast! Day to day though, I’ve hit the jackpot if I manage to conjure up one of the above. In reality it’s a rarity.
I’ve just walked out of a very emotional therapy session, in which we spoke a lot about the little guy and my emotions and feelings relating to parenting him, managing (or not) the eating disorder and his influence on me and mine on him. Rewind a year or so… our weekends and holidays were filled with days out, adventures, trips to the park, laughs, smiles, late nights and early mornings, home cooked meals, brunch dates, ice cream for every occasion and an awful lot of amazing moments and memories. A year on and everything has flipped 360! I am full of guilt and frustration and feel like I’m failing him. I find myself beating myself up everyday, wanting to be the best parent I am and give him the world, knowing right now I can’t be, but not being able to justify it as ‘the illness’. I blame myself. For getting into this state, for not being able to escape from it and for everything Harvey has to (but shouldn’t) endure or miss out on.
My legs are in pain, my body feels weak, I’m preoccupied thinking about foodie things, I want to shut the world out and I’m exhausted mentally and physically. He’s starting to understand this and appreciate that I can’t always do the things he wants, but honestly, I don’t want him to! I find it so hard to accept that I can’t take him on long days out and chase around after him right now. I’ll happily give it my best shot but ultimately end up setting myself back for the next few days, which makes matters worse for both of us. We have had days where we’ve not left home, let alone got dressed. Harvey is my little Rambo. He loves being outside, exploring, playing and using his wild imagination and I feel responsible that I can’t encourage or support that. It’s part of growing up and his childhood, that I’ve taken from him and that right there is what I’m trying to use to pull me through the mud!
He’s my biggest support right here right now. I don’t know how I’d cope without him but I can’t cope with him. I feel so guilty and frustrated and angry at myself that I have to rely on him so much. He’s a 6 year old, he should be out climbing trees and slide tackling his mates on the football pitch but, no. He objects when I ask him to do things at times and when I take a step back and think, I’d probably have felt the same way at his age, so I try not to be too hard on him. He helps out with the chores (emptying the dishwasher, loading the washing machine, carrying in the food shopping etc.) sometimes willingly or sometimes it takes a bit of bribery (still cheaper than hiring a cleaner though). His favourite is mopping (such a little cinderella in every sense). I do believe a child growing up should have some responsibility in the house and do chores but it’s more the fact that he’s doing them, not for the benefit it will have on him in the long run or an extra few pennies or a pack of stickers but instead because I physically can’t and that is a fact I find hard to live with.
When it comes to mealtimes, we haven take dysfunctional to a whole new level. Family ‘mealtimes’, sat at the table together are a thing of distant memories. I’ve mentioned before the mealtime struggles but as of late, cooking, even heating things up has been a battle. Given my dietetic background, Harvey’s nutrition is of massive importance to me, but I can’t mentally bring myself to prepare his meals. Which has meant an awful lot of ready meals, eating out, take aways, snacky meals and anything but a healthy homemade dinner!!! And things only seem to be deteriorating. I need to accept that as things stand, cooking isn’t a priority and ready meals are good enough. As a temporary measure. I need to remember that it’s not forever and it will be worth it in the long run. During my session, my therapist said “You know you can’t do this right now, but in your mind you’re still telling yourself you can.” She hit the nail on the head, I’m setting myself up to fail everyday by not admitting defeat. The way I see it, I’m Harvey’s mother, I’m responsible for his care and needs and I can’t stand the fact I can’t fully provide for him. Any mother will know exactly how I feel and what I mean. It’s devastating.
After putting all this out in the open, talking about it and realising I know I can’t be the gold standard parent I want to be but it not being OK in my mind, I have a lot of work to do, mentally. It almost didn’t seem real until we spoke about it, I’d brushed it off and buried my head in the sand a bit. I would go as far as saying I’ve been in denial. It’s a long road, but what better motivation to push on through and get better.
This week, with a bit of help, I’m going to bulk prep a load of meals for Harvey and portion them all off, to avoid the daily, internal battle of being desperate to cook for him but having that solid, mental block. That way he can have homemade meals without me having to face cooking. Bingo!!! (I may even teach him how to work the microwave!)