Auntie Needs to Rest
"Auntie's tired" or "Auntie needs to rest" are two things that I really hate saying. But I have to say them more often than not when I'm babysitting my nieces (14-month-old twins and a four-year-old)--especially the four-year-old, who has boundless amounts of energy. Auntie, however, does not have boundless energy, mostly due to RA fatigue and pain.
Despite my RA limitations, I do often push myself and test my limits when I'm taking care of my niece. She'll beg me for a piggyback ride and as I silently groan as she climbs onto my back, I can also hear her giggling and shrieking with happiness in my ear as we start to run around the house. How can I say no? Or how can I say no to playing kickball, racing back and forth in the yard, or going on long walks to hunt for pretty fall leaves? I don't want to say no.
Even "calm" activities such as drawing or painting or playing with puzzles can prove to be quite tiring for me. Kids are exhausting, and my niece is especially so because she's full of energy and life and curiosity. She bounces from one thing to the next which is a delight to experience but sometimes it's hard to keep up with her. And I feel guilty about that because I want to keep up with her and I want to take her hand in mine and run around and play with her. Or have an impromptu dance party with her in the living room. Or walk to the park and go down the slide 20 times in a row. The sad reality is, my body won't always let me do those things and I have to say "no." The hardest part of saying no is that she doesn't understand why I can't do things. It's frustrating and sad to have your sweet, bubbly little niece tugging at your hand or arm while exclaiming, "Get up, Auntie! Get up! Let's GO!" But sometimes Auntie just really wants to stay lying on the couch.
Helping my sister take care of the twin babies is a whole other story. She's exhausted and frazzled just being the mother of twins (and the busy four-year-old) and she doesn't have RA or deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. I try to help her the best I can, by changing diapers, helping with feedings, rocking and soothing fussy babies to sleep. But while a four-year-old has trouble understanding "Auntie's tired," twin babies definitely can't understand. So I often have to fight through the fatigue and pain to chase after a baby crawling around the corner about to get into the dog's food and water dish, or keep pacing the floor trying to get a cranky baby to fall asleep.
I feel very fortunate to live close to my sister's family so that I can see them often and be a significant part of my nieces' lives. I love being an auntie--even with all of the fussing, screaming, dirty diapers, crying fits, and exhausting, not-so-fun aspects of the "job." The good parts definitely outweigh the challenging ones, but even the good parts of childcare--rocking a sweet baby to sleep, chasing after hilarious toddlers, making up silly songs with a pre-schooler--take a lot of physical and mental strength and energy.
As a single, childless person just babysitting little kids on a weekly basis, I've experienced and realized how difficult and challenging it is taking care of children when you have chronic pain. I can't imagine what it must be like being a parent while having RA. To those of you out there who are doing it, I respect and admire you. You give me much inspiration and hope if/when I end up having my own kids.
When was your last flare?