Monday, May 18, 2015

The Color of Forgiveness

I'm sitting here looking at my Mother's Day cards from Quinn -- one store-bought that starts "Dear Mommy, Thank you for tucking me in...", one handmade with a crooked heart drawn on the front. And I'm crying all over my kitchen table. I hugged Quinn extra hard at preschool drop-off today, his last day before the school year ends.


In the last few weeks, our family has been facing the continuing decline of Chris's mom's health, which has meant Chris has been traveling up to northern California to spend time with her every other week. Between Chris's travels and my time in DC, we've hardly spent any time together as a family in a month.

Quinn and I FaceTime with Grandma Maryann a bit, when she's feeling up for it, but Chris doesn't want how she's doing now to be Quinn's memory of her, so it's unlikely the two of us will see her in person anytime soon.

At school, Quinn drew a picture for me for Mother's Day, two stick figures holding hands. He tells me, "Mommy, that's me and you!" But on closer inspection, I realize both faces are frowning.

"Why do we have unhappy faces, buddy?" I ask.

"Because we're sad about Grandma."



All of this apart-ness and upheaval and emotion has certainly taken a toll on Quinn. He's alternately sweet as can be or acting out, defiant about every single thing I ask him to do lately, whether it's brushing teeth or turning off the TV or not running away from me in a crowded grocery store.

Yesterday, as I was driving Quinn to a new park to play with his friend Sydney, I was trying to focus on where the map was telling me to turn, trying to find parking, trying to communicate with Sydney's mom about where to meet without taking my eyes off the road, and Quinn -- in his utter and complete excitement about seeing Sydney -- would not stop asking me, every thirty seconds, how much longer we had until we got there. "Quinn! Can you please be quiet so I can focus on the road?" I asked him more than once, then felt a stab of guilt for being an asshole.

At school drop-off and pick-up the last few weeks, I find my conversations with other moms gravitating toward how tough this age is. This age being 2 to 4? 5? We wonder when it gets easier, joke that we need happy hour at three in the afternoon, talk about pulling our hair out. And even as I participate, I know better. I know how precious this life is, what little (if any) time any of us are guaranteed, how -- difficult or ornery we might all be on occasion -- my time with my boys is everything.


This morning, with Chris back in town, I went for a hike. I was heavy-limbed and clumsy. I twisted my ankle (it's fine) and felt unsure of my steps a good portion of the way. Eventually, battered and out of breath and frustrated, I made it to the top.

A photo posted by Jen Campisano (@jencampisano) on

Back down the mountain, my head clearer than it had been in days, I checked my phone and got the punch-to-the-gut news that my friend and sorority sister Jenny's six-year-old son Michael died last night. It wasn't so much a surprise as it was a stark reminder of the brevity of our lives.

Michael had been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor a week before he started kindergarten last fall. Kindergarten.

That one pretty much takes the cake for cruelty, Universe.

And yet, Jenny and her family did not approach Michael's cancer with anger or bitterness. They celebrated his life. They spoke out to raise awareness about (and a lot of money toward) childhood brain cancer. They made to-do lists and checked them off every day, a tally of their accomplishments together as a family.

At his memorial later this week, they're encouraging everyone to wear yellow, Michael's favorite color. Yellow, the color of sunshine and hope, optimism and new beginnings. The color of forgiveness.

So, in Michael's honor, forgive yourselves, parents, for the occasional times when you're not doing your best. Then go hug your kiddos a little closer, a little tighter. You could probably both use it.

You can read more about Michael's inspiring story here and I encourage you to make a donation to the fund created in his honor by clicking here

And I'll close with Jenny's own words from that Huffington Post article:

Jenny said she wants to remind parents to "enjoy every precious moment" with their children.

"The truth is that I often complained about how hard it is to be a parent," she said. "I do not back away from that sentiment -- I still think it is hard -- but I wish that in some of the moments when I was feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, I had the perspective to know that I was the luckiest person on the planet to have those kids driving me crazy."


  1. I am so inspired by your writings. I, also, am sad to think of my good friend Maryann in such fragile heath. We were out of touch for a while after our boys left the hockey arena, but reconnected and have had many good times together recently. I will try and figure out another time to go see her when she is up to it.
    Right now I am also dealing with renal cell carcinoma in my left kidney. I am having the kidney removed at UCSF on June 9th. I am so fortunate to have it contained in the kidney and no treatment after it is removed. It was accidentally found in an MRI I had for my sciatica. My family just had many toasts to the universe for Dick's one year anniversary of his death. We miss him every day, but know he is now out of prayers to your family.

    1. Susan, I had no idea about your kidney cancer. I trust you've recovered okay.

      It is incredibly sad to see Maryann suffer. Thank you for being her friend. I know she treasures her community there.

  2. I am sorry about Chris' mom. Your son is showing his emotions in such a sweet way. I think he's already trying to figure out how to cope with life challenges.

    I am also sorry about Michael. Seeing a child go through cancer is just horrible. Thinking of his family.

    1. I do think Q is highly sensitive and emotionally attune. So I try to remember to be goofy with him. We have dance parties or act like monkeys to bring some normalcy back into our lives.

      Michael's story is a terrible one, and I am still in awe of how his family is weathering their storm.

  3. So sorry to hear about your mother in law. My 4 YO is like a moody teenage and processes her strong emotions in some loud and ornery ways. Sometimes I can't help but smile at her outbursts, "You aren't my best friend", "You're the worst mom ever", "You can't come to my birthday party." At other times, it's very annoying. Wishing you the best guiding your little guy during tough times.

    1. Thank you. And yes, we say he is four going on fourteen! They are so funny at this age (when I can remember to find it amusing rather than infuriating). I'm a work in progress, always.