The first year after my mother died left me in a wake of grief. The littlest thing would send me reeling.
My nine year old daughter, Emily, also had a tough time adjusting. Migraines plagued her almost every week. I had tried to limit her intake of the triggers, except many were her favorite foods. Finally, I sat her down and lectured her. “You know these foods can give you a migraine, yet, you continue to eat them.”
Crossing her arms, she glared at me. “But Mommmmmy!”
“Emily Marie!” I raised my eyebrows and shot her my best Mom-look. As tears welled up in her eyes, my heart crumpled. It seemed easy to forget that she, too, had suffered a loss.
Swallowing back my emotions, I reached over and pulled her close. “Let’s make a deal. You know what foods cause your migraines. Since you are the one who has to deal with the pain, then you can make the decision about what foods you eat.”
A glimmer of a smile started to spread across her face until I held up my finger and shook it at her a couple of times. “However, if you get a headache from eating those foods, I don't want to hear you whine about it. The consequence of gobbling down candy and other junk is you will probably get a migraine. You make the choice and you pay the piper without complaint. Deal?”
Her smile spread across her face. ”Deal!” She hugged me as I sank back into my depression, wishing Mom were here to tell me if I had done the right thing or not. Oh, how I missed her. I flopped on the couch and allowed the tears to fall.
Later, Emily came and jostled me awake. “Mommy, I don't feel good. My head hurts.”
I could feel my temper bubbling up inside of me as my ranting began. “I told you that you shouldn't eat that junk. You have the red marks from the Kool-Aid on your face. We just made a deal, and here you are already whining about a headache. I told you I didn't want to hear about. Not only do you have a Kool-Aid mustache, but you have red stuff all over your face. What on earth did you get into?”
I grabbed her chin and pulled her face closer so I could inspect it. My stomach felt like it dropped a mile when I realized the red stuff wasn't from a drink, but the beginning of chicken pox. As her chin rested in my hand, I could feel the heat radiating from her little body. “Oh honey, I'm so sorry. You have chicken pox. Come on, let’s get you some medicine and you can climb into bed with me tonight. I'm so sorry I yelled at you.”
She just looked at me with tears welling up in her eyes. “Mommy, I don’t feel good and I want Grandma.”
Oh boy, did I know that feeling. The voice inside my head went on a tirade. “You're the worst mother in the world. The poor thing has spots all over her body, a fever, and aches all over, but you just start yelling at her. How are you ever going to get it right without your mother here to guide you?”
Suddenly, I could almost picture my mom standing beside me chuckling. “You made a mistake. Parents aren't perfect. Quit beating yourself up and go tend to my Emily.”
I wiped away the tears and crawled into bed next to my daughter.
As she looked up, confidence in me filled her eyes. “Did you have chicken pox, Mommy?”
Not trusting my voice, I nodded my head.
“What did Grandma do to make you feel better?”
“Hmm, let me think. I bet she rubbed calamine lotion all over me turning me into a pink polka dot.” I grabbed the bottle, shook it and started dabbing her pox. “This will help the itching. I also remember her giving me baking powder—wait, no, baking soda baths. But the thing she did almost every time I was sick is tell me the chicken story.”
“Will you tell me, please?”
I caressed her face and began. “Once upon a time…”
A sense of peace washed over me as I realized that even though Mom wasn't here, I had my memories to help me become the best Mommy I could be.
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