Two tired hands are backing away from an angry lego.

Tiny Toys Are Not Joint-Friendly (And Other Parenting Qualms)

“Mommy, can you open this?”, my 3 and a half-year-old requests, moving a teeny tiny toy into my vision.

“I’ll try, bud,” I reply, feeling as though I might admit defeat before even attempting.

Limited hand strength and grip

I know I won’t get it without a deep struggle. The toys laugh in my face before I eventually call for help from my husband. He’ll snap the tiny Lego apart in a second and move on with his day. I, on the other hand, would try all kinds of different positions and holds while biting my tongue before mustering up enough grip strength to pry the dang thing open.

The truth is: I feel like a child myself most of the time because I often need an adult to help me open sippy cups, tough doorknobs, tiny toys, or thick-skinned plastic packages that come in the mail. Opening items that require a normal amount of hand strength and grip is one of those parental duties I fail at because of my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). And, it really annoys me!

Lacking hand strength disrupts daily life

It’s not that I believe my RA makes me a bad parent or even less of a good one. It’s the fact that my RA rears its head in the simple moments of parenthood like opening a sippy cup to give my son fresh water, for example. Even after cursing whoever screwed the lid on so tightly under my breath at the sink, I’m still annoyed at the situation.

RA doesn’t make me a bad parent

I try a rubber gripper or the special jar opener that I received as a Christmas gift last year with no luck. It would be so simple to unscrew the lid with ease and go about completing the task. Lacking hand strength disrupts the flow of our daily life, parenting our preschool-aged son, and a little one on the way. RA doesn’t make me a bad parent at all, just a really inconvenienced one.

Lessons learned for all

It’s in these moments when I am cursing the sippy cup’s name that I look over and see my exuberant 3-year-old son’s face. His ears perked in my direction soaking up my reaction. I am constantly telling him to “take a breath and try again” when he’s frustrated. What a contradiction that I sometimes act this way when I face frustration? What am I teaching him in face of a minor problem? Not to get so frustrated that you let it ruin the day, I hope.

RA can used as a teachable moment

It’s a good reminder to me that my RA can be a teaching moment in both of our lives about keeping your cool, trying again, and finally, that it’s OK to ask for help. Learning to ask for help is one of the most difficult lessons we can learn, but arguably one of the most valuable. We all need help at times and it is OK to admit and accept graciously.

Next time I face a smug tiny toy, I will take a deep breath, proclaim I need help loudly enough for my son to hear, and accept that help with love because that’s a lesson I want our children to see firsthand.

Are you a parent with RA? What are some of your own struggles when it comes to parenting with RA? Share with us below!

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