I have an adorable 7yr old son, named Joshua. In most areas of life, he blissfully lives in what I affectionately called "Joshy World". Sometimes he can seem truly oblivious to the world around him, rather than worry and question his surroundings he'd rather simply exist in his world of care-free play with his limitless imagination. However, there is one sobering exception to this, one thing that drags him out of his world of innocence and into the adult world of worry and fear: his mommy having Multiple Sclerosis.
Tonight, Josh drew me a picture of him and I standing hand in hand in the sunshine. On the back of the picture he wrote "I love you very much Mom. I hope your MS does not get worse. I hope they find a cure for your MS". When I flipped the picture over and saw that, I was both overwhelmed by love and sadness. I know my son truly loves me so much, but it also makes me so incredibly sad that a little boy of only 7 years old has to even know that the letters "M" and "S" together aren't just consonants but stand for a horrible disease.
He asks me about MS all the time lately. It started a few months ago, we were driving in the car and out of the blue he asked "Mommy, will I have MS?" I cringed. Logically, I know there's no way of knowing the answer to that, but how do you explain it to a child without scaring them? I forced a smile and reached back to rub his hand "No baby you won't have to worry about MS". He then continued "Mom, do only certain people get MS?" "Yes hun, only certain people get MS". A brief pause, then the million dollar question: "Why are you one of the certain people who got MS?"
Thus I tried as best I could to explain to him what many adults don't even understand, that no one knows why one person gets MS and another doesn't. Obviously, this lack of certainty didn't help matters much, in fact it only spurred more questions. "Why can't they cure MS? When will they be able to cure MS? Are you going to die?" I sighed as I answered all his questions as best I could in a language he could understand, and I focused one answer in particular "Baby I'm not going to die anytime soon, so please don't worry ok? MS isn't going to kill me"
As a mother, it is heartbreaking to have constantly reassure your child that you're not going to suddenly die and leave them. I have always firmly believed that having open, honest communication in a home is crucial, and me having MS is no different. My kids know they can ask me anything about it, talk about it, even be angry because of it. In that respect, I'm glad my son is comfortable to talk to me about his questions and fears so I can reassure him. But as a mom, it makes me want to cry that my little boy carries such adult fears with him at all.
I will continue to reassure my son as best I can, for as long as it takes. Tonight it was actually kind of neat though. I was in the kitchen putting away dishes and Josh came up "Mom, you know what? When I grow up I'm going to find the cure for MS so I can cure you". I smiled as I reached down to stroke his cheek. I thought to myself ...wow, how cool would that be? My son the next great researcher finding a cure for MS. It was in that moment I realized that while MS has definitely stolen some of his innocence too soon, it left some pretty amazing dreams and hopes in it's place. My heart melted with love for my little boy as I peered down into his gorgeous blue eyes "You know what Baby? I bet you will find the cure someday".
Don't ever lose your hopes and dreams :)