I Had No Idea This Would Be Our Last 'Good Day' Before My Daughter Got Sick

by Cara Arnold
Originally Published: 
A two-part collage of Cara's two sons and her daughter who got sick
Courtesy of Cara Wells

I woke up to the words “Mom, mom … MOOOOOOOM.” I wouldn’t have minded so much if it was later. But it wasn’t even 6 a.m. “The sky’s awake so I’m awake,” my youngest sung.

But I was not awake. I opened my eyes just enough to turn cartoons on and went back to sleep. My boy snuggled back in beside me. I didn’t treasure it, though. In fact, I vividly remember thinking that co-sleeping was a big joke. What was the point if it just meant we both got up early? But, in bed we stayed, until his siblings woke.

Breakfast was chaotic, as most weekend mornings with three little ones are.

“No, you can’t have ice cream. I don’t care that Pop Tarts have more sugar.”

“Sit down.”

“Don’t feed the dog off your spoon.”

“Get out here with that waffle.”

… you get the idea.

Courtesy of Cara Wells

My focus was on keeping order. It wasn’t misdirected; kids need that structure. But it robbed me of enjoying them. I kept thinking “When they get older…”

It was cold and snowy outside, and we desperately needed sunshine. But it was March. So, an indoor water park with fake palm trees was the best I could do.

Courtesy of Cara Wells

We met my friend and her family there. Between she and I, we had six kids. They were a lively crew, to say the least. We tried to get them to all look at us for a picture. Probably just to post showing what good parents we are, if I’m being honest. But we would have had more luck herding cats. In frustration we gave up, and the kids ran off in six different directions to play.

We sat and talked – reveling in the company of another adult. We complained, a lot. This season of motherhood is hard, we agreed. The kids need so much, and we’re stretched so thin all the time. It’s exhausting. We talked about how things would change “when they’re older….”

Little did I know that imperfect snapshot we took would be my last memory of my daughter standing.

Had I known I would have watched her longer.

I’d have watched her run up the stairs to the slide, and kick across a pool.

I’d have watched as she chased after her brothers, and as she jumped into the water.

But I didn’t know.

I didn’t know the value of a moment, or that the next day a seizure would leave her muscles contracted so tightly her legs could no longer support her.

And maybe that’s for the best. Because her last “good” day was a normal one.

But, for me it’s haunting.

It’s haunting because that day, I chose frustration over joy.

I let circumstances dictate my happiness.

When I was awoken that morning by an enthusiastic little boy, I didn’t see the beauty in a sunrise, I saw lost sleep. When my son snuggled up to me, I didn’t embrace his cuddles, I scoffed at him being in my bed. At breakfast I missed the critical thinking that went into justifying eating ice cream in place of Pop Tarts and I didn’t celebrate that my son wanted to share – even if it was only with the dog. By the time we reached the pool, because of my negativity, I was tired. And I missed the last good day.

Courtesy of Cara Wells

And I chose that fate. But I won’t again.

I now know life is going to do what it’s going to do. And I can’t control it. But I can control how I respond. And it will be with joy.

Some days I’ll wake up with sun, others, maybe I’ll sleep till noon.

Some days my kids will eat fruit and veggies … other days they’ll gorge themselves on ice cream.

I’ll get smiling pictures – and I’ll get ones full of smirks.

And I’ll appreciate it all, knowing it’ll balance in time.

But time is a finite resource. And I won’t waste it waiting for moments to pass.

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