Claire and Marjorie Brimley hugging in DC alley
Missing Shawn

Do You Know What Makes Me Nervous?

How the hell am I going to do this?

No really, how the hell am I going to raise three young kids without Shawn? There’s literally a decade left before I send the first one to college, and I really don’t know what I’m doing right now, much less how I’m going to figure it out in the future. Some days, it just feels damn near impossible to know how to parent alone.

Take tonight. I took the kids out with friends for a fun kid-themed dinner at a Japanese steakhouse. There was entertainment and the kids were all so excited. But I couldn’t even get through the appetizer before I noticed how much my daughter was clearly overwhelmed. This happens, sometimes, as she has a food allergy and new restaurants make her nervous. But tonight she just couldn’t take it. We had to leave the restaurant and come home.

She was upset – first, because the new restaurant was overwhelming for her, but second, because she was worried that she had ruined my night. I reassured her that she hadn’t ruined my night and that I was happy to come home any time that she needed to. I want to push her to try new things, but I understand her fear of food, as I also have a food allergy.

Still, it’s hard. It’s hard to know that I’m the only one who’s going to be able to take her home. Before, that job was Shawn’s. He always took one for the Brimley family team, and he was happy to sit at home with whoever needed to be there. I guess I didn’t realize how often that was, and how disruptive it would be to my own life when I had to take over that role.

And then when I’m home with whichever kid is sick or frustrated or tired, I feel this intense sadness come over me. It’s happened each and every time I’ve had to bring one of my kids home early from some event or activity. In those moments, I feel Shawn’s loss so deeply.

We were supposed to do this together, dammit. That’s what partners mean. Together. Forever. The two of us verses the world.

We were supposed to share the shitty moments. The truly terrible ones, the ones that would maybe even make us fight with each other because neither of us wanted to do what we had to do. Those moments were supposed to be shared. If we were crappy parents, at least we were supposed to be crappy parents together.

The moment where my daughter looked at me and said that she was scared and sad and frustrated – that moment was supposed to be one where we both tried to find the right words to comfort her. It’s not supposed to be just me, all the time, always.

It took everything in me tonight to get her to bed. As I tried to calm her down by talking softly and brushing her hair, she said that sometimes when she goes into a new restaurant, she feels really nervous because she just doesn’t know what kind of food they have there.

I told her I understood, and that it’s a pretty normal thing to feel that way, especially if you have a food allergy. Then, for some reason I can’t explain, I decided to tell her about what was really hard for me.

“You know what makes me nervous when I go into restaurants?” I asked her.

She shook her head.

“Going in without Daddy makes me nervous because it makes me sad. It’s hard for me to do.” I started to cry a little bit.

She hugged me. And then I sat with her until she fell asleep.

I wish there was some perfect ending to this post, some beautiful something that I could write here to tie everything up. But when I put her to bed, I just felt so alone. Because now, in those moments, it’s just me verses the world.

And that makes me really nervous.

Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.


  • Sheryll Brimley

    gee whiz Marjorie I wish I had some comforting words to say, but I don’t. Life has been so unfair to you & the children. Those moments must be so terrible, so terrifying, so lonely, so sad for you….I cannot even imagine! You & my son were so good together, a real partnership. So many do not have that. You are a strong woman Marjorie & you will figure things out in time. Please know that so many love you & are thinking about you & the children all the time.

    • Marjorie

      Thank you – it’s so wonderful to know that others saw how awesome our partnership was. xo

  • Becky

    Oh Marjorie. I, of course, cannot take away the loneliness or the pain or the fear or the anxiety, but I can point out the beauty that may be hard for you to see at times. The some beautiful something that you wished you could write was already written all throughout your post: your daughter had a need at the restaurant that you recognized before she even had to say anything. And while you wanted to care for her, she was also concerned for you. You took her home and made her feel safe and loved. She felt secure enough to share her feelings and her fears with you. And you felt secure enough to share your feelings and fears with her. You both tried to comfort one another. And you were together. It’s not perfect, but it is beautiful. You are an amazing Mom and you have extraordinary children. And nothing about doing this without Shawn will ever be easy, but you will do it. You can do it. Sending love and hugs.

  • Serena

    I echo what Becky wrote. So much beauty to behold in your posts and how you handle these moments. You are making it through, and you will keep making it through, with love–your love and Shawn’s love and your kids love and all our love and God’s love. So hard, so hard, but you are truly amazing.

  • Rachel

    Kudos to both you and your daughter for having the ability to put your emotions into words and the courage to share them with one another. That’s a huge, powerful thing. I wish I had something helpful to say about doing it alone but I feel the same way. It is overwhelming and exhausting, and even knowing that my kids and I have lots of people around us who care, it’s very lonely without the person I really want to be there.

    • Marjorie

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I guess I didn’t think of it as a good thing that we talked through it all, but now that I’ve written down how the night went, I am glad that we were able to talk about it all….even if she’s only 9.

  • Kristin McNally

    Sending you and the kids a big hug and a high five for making it through another day. And understanding, lots of it. YOU are the beautiful thing and I totally get why that makes you nervous. Love.