The Children Always Win



This morning I realized, with sickening certainty, that my children’s ultimate goal is to break me down and destroy me. I used to think they really loved me, but they don’t. They want to systematically take away everything that is me. It was while sitting in the exam chair at the eye doctor’s this morning that I had (symptom of steady brain leeching: inability to come up with clever phrasing).

“Do you spend a lot of time outside without eye protection, Rachel?” the kind doctor asked me gently. I thought for a moment, my mind running backwards over the last eight years….hot summer days, squinting over the searing reflection of the sun at Six Flags, as I charged in and out of murky ankle-deep water chasing children. Of running up and down sunfilled dusty rows at our community farm, my sunglasses winking ahead of me, held aloft by a dancing, tiny hand. Of shuffling through sun-baked Disney World, watching my children model their new Pirates of the Caribbean sunglasses, wondering if my sunglasses were a. in the bottom of the stroller, or b. sticky with fruit snack residue, or c. in someone’s bedding back at the hotel. Of sensible brimmed hats snatched from my head, and plonked onto heads far too small. Tiny, cute heads which turned bright red and screamed with outrage if the giant hat was removed.

“ could say that.”

The doctor explained that all those years of no sunglasses and no hat had caused damage to my eyes. Damage which, now that I thought about it, would probably explain why for the past six months my eyes felt painful when driving on bright days. Damage that would have been diagnosed six months ago had I not had to reschedule my eye doctor’s exam countless times due to child illness, children’s activities and the always conveniently scheduled teacher’s professional development day.

I rested my hand on my thigh, where a painful throb reminded me of the dollhouse someone had planted for me to smash into last night as I walked to bed. I reached into my bag for a Kleenex, noting a food stain on the bag’s side, and I wiped my nose which had been running for almost a month, when someone’s playdate turned out to have the flu. My strong, hale and hearty children who take vitamins and eat well-balanced diets didn’t succumb to it…but I, with my diet of coffee and leftover bites of granola bar didn’t fare as well.

I wondered if I should buy new contacts now, or see how long I could keep wearing the current pair I had in, since our trip to the American Girl doll store yesterday cost oh, about $200 more than I expected (which, coincidentally, is the same amount my contact refill would cost.)

I thought about how my winter coat wasn’t nearly as warm as it used to be, and how much I’d like a new one. I thought about how I traded in my fun, sporty car for a minivan, for the express purpose of accommodating playdates (and in doing so, supporting the fuel industry). I realized, as I sat there, that something had to change. I cannot let them win! I WILL fight back; they’ve taken away my car, my wardrobe, my health, my food preferences, my television… I will not let them take my eyesight!

Once home, I checked out Amazon for nice, grownup sunglasses with adequate protection. At the very least, I could prevent further damage to my eyes.  Two family members had given me Amazon gift cards for Christmas, which I had tucked away to buy kids’ gifts as needed throughout the year, but instead, I would use them on sunglasses. Something I need.

Except…I just can’t do it. Even though I didn’t pay for the gift cards, I cannot spend $100 on sunglasses when I know that is a week of groceries…two sets of soccer gear…money towards gymnastics lessons. I bet I could find some sunglasses at Target that are just as good, for far less, and while there I could pick up sneakers for the girls. And goldfish crackers are on sale….and BandAids. And maybe I don’t really need those sunglasses after all.  If only I can find a hat….

And this is how they will win. Every struggle, every day, until I am blind and huddled under a blanket on a street corner somewhere.


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  1. 2

    Jen says

    All I can say is amen. I love this post. :)
    I am in the same boat. While I’d love to spend money on myself, I swear every time I go to, I can talk myself out of it for my kids. It seems like they always need x, y, or z when I need something for myself. So it’s “If i spend this on those shoes/clothes/whatever, what I need can wait, or I’ll get cheapo version of whatever.” & thus they win.

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  2. 3

    Mom Off Meth says

    Yes. Yes. Yes. My coat doesn’t have a zipper anymore and has the paint color of our wood trim, down the arm. I live in Minnesota. It was -2 degrees last night when I ran to my car, clutching my coat shut. My mittens were wet, because my kid’s water bottle spilled on them. And today, my daughter needs a new bed. So, looks like I’ll be clutching my coat shut, with paint on the arm, until the ground thaws.

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  3. 6

    Ashley says

    I don’t personally know the feeling, but I’ve seen my mom do the same thing. It didn’t really hit me until I was older, but my mom went without a lot. My younger siblings (14 & 16) still live at home and are always demanding new shoes, clothes, and food. I try to help her out. I buy things for my siblings, I buy things for her that I know she wants but doesn’t really need. It’s always nice to get that little something that you would never buy yourself. I hope this is some conciliation. Hoping that since you’ve taken care of them their whole life, they will turn around and repay the favor.

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  4. 8

    Jody says

    Much of this was funny but I hope the whole thing was a joke. As the mama, we sacrifice for our children everyday…but not your eyes. Not something that could change your life forever, and that of your family. I hope in the end you got exactly what you needed to protect your eyes, which are more important than an American Girl anything. Xoxo

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  5. 9

    Jen says

    Love this, it’s so true!! My kids have a wardobe at least twice the size of mine (each, and i have 3!!) which in the end is just more for me to pick up, wash, and put away!! Mt family has wised up though, if i’m given a gift card for something for myself my sister gets sent with me to ensure it is spent the way it was meant to be! lol

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  6. 11

    Robin says

    I’m glad I am not the only one who was a little sad about this post. I loved and totally related until I got to the part where you decide not to spend the money on yourself for something extremely important. No longer can you use your children as an excuse, you’ve now made the decision to essentially suffer. I hate to say that’s martyring yourself because that sounds kind of mean. But when you reach the point of neglecting yourself, the kids are not the problem anymore. We all struggle with this to some extent so I feel for you and hope that you make yourself a priority before it’s too late. xo

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