From the Mouths of Babes

I have three wonderful granddaughters –ages 2, 5 and 8 – who make MS take a back seat when they are around. How can I think of my woes when they are waiting to tell me their latest joke, read a book, or just sit on my lap and snuggle? I do my best to not let my health take the spotlight from them and keep our relationship as normal as possible.

The two youngest grands are still at the age that the health of their grandparents doesn’t register with them.  They know I have MS, whatever that is to a 5 year old, and they have participated in the MS Walk each year of their lives, despite the rain and wind, and even that one sunny year that made the walk unusually warm.  On not so stable days, they have seen me use my cane, and have made no mention of it. I am also known to be on the floor to color or at the table playing games, or doing special other things that celebrate good times with the girls.  For them, life is pretty much worry-free.

Grand #1, however, is a different story.  I’m pretty sure she is going to be my chronic worrier.  On a recent visit to our home for dinner, she decided to put her grandfather on a diet – she told him he should not eat any sugar for a whole week. I asked her why she thought he needed to be on a diet, and she said she wants him to be healthy. Being unhealthy or diets is not a discussion we have, so I wondered what set this off in her young thought process. Certainly we hope she doesn’t want to monitor how he did with the no sugar ban, because the ice cream and chocolates didn’t disappear.

More recently, when we were on an outing and Grand #1 was holding my hand while we were walking across the parking lot, she quietly asked me if I remembered when we went to Disney World last summer and how I used a wheelchair? I replied that of course I remembered and she immediately told me that she didn’t like that and the next time we go to Disney she wants me to walk.  I asked her why she was thinking that, and she explained that it was hard to push the wheelchair (which she didn’t do!) and she would rather I walk all the time. But then without missing a beat, she turned, smiled at me, and said it was ok that I was in the wheelchair because it meant she didn’t have to wait in the long lines, and it would be ok if I had to do that again. I waited for a further explanation from her on the connection and what she was thinking, but it didn’t come. I may get a more in-depth explanation from her next month or next year, when she feels the need to talk it over again, but for now I won’t press for more.  She is obviously thinking through something on her own terms.

It occurs to me that she is passing from the innocence of childhood into that next stage where she will have a growing awareness of others and not just herself, but she has already been the student  in school who helps the others students, especially the ones struggling with their math.  I hope that by knowing her grandma has Multiple Sclerosis and sometimes needs extra time or help, she will continue to develop the empathy and concern she is already showing at the age of 8, but I don’t want her to carry the burden of worrying about me, either.

Finding the just-right mix for discussions about Multiple Sclerosis with my grandchildren is difficult and one I will continue to struggle with to find that right balance. My greatest empathy goes out to those of you living with your own children and trying to explain unexplainable MS.

Wishing you well,


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