I make sure I stay as healthy as possible so that my kids have the best shot at a happy and healthy life for themselves. I explain my illness to them and to the important people in their lives, not because I want a crutch to lean on, but so they understand that mommy loves them, and sometimes the things I do can’t be accounted for and absolutely aren’t their fault.
These are the lessons I’ve learned; these are the mistakes my mother made that I won’t repeat. But the good bits from my childhood? Those I’ll hang on to. We have a huge cupboard overflowing with board games. We eat dinner together as a family every night, just as my mother always insisted. I still craft and create, and I love books and writing.
Seeing Yourself Through Their Eyes
So often when I look at myself as a parent, I see illness and failure in every direction I turn. I fail to get the kids to school on time some mornings because I can’t wake up on time (episodes, medication, bad sleep cycles – you know how it is). I fail far too often to keep my temper in check; I have a short fuse and I yell. A lot. I fail at arranging playdates for the girls because having extra kids around the house in the afternoons is almost always too much for me to handle.
The list goes on and on. I judge myself as weak, selfish, and a complete failure. Sometimes I even judge myself for having children – how could I do this to them? They deserve so much more than a mentally ill mother who yells all the time (even though I didn’t know I was bipolar until long after they were born). Surely they would be so much happier without me.
But you know what? They wouldn’t. They love me. For now, at least until puberty strikes, my girls adore my creativity and are amazed by what I do. I make lots of unusual things. They join in sometimes, but often they do their own thing, scribbling and doodling at the dining table, our home’s central hub.
Our shelves and closets and cupboards are full of art supplies, scraps of useful materials, colored paper, cardboard, and so many kinds of glue and tape, just like when I was a kid. I design t-shirts for a living, but I make anything I can dream up in my free time, from convoluted paper lampshades to screen-printed shopping bags.
My kids can challenge me to a few rounds of Mario Kart or ask for help when they get stuck in Lego Lord of the Rings. I enjoy trying out new recipes and they often get involved; I’ve tried to pass along my love of knitting, but it hasn’t stuck yet. And to my girls, this all adds up to make me the best mother in the world.