Brimley kids watching fireworks after death of Shawn

I Want to Die Right Now Because at Least Then I Wouldn’t Have to Carry Anyone Home After They Throw Up from Eating Too Much Ice Cream

The title of this blog post is from an actual text I sent some of my girlfriends this summer. If there’s something that sums up my summer, it’s probably that text. By August, I was so exhausted that the idea that I had to do one more thing for my kids was just too much. So, as I sat watching Tommy eat an ice cream cone that was bigger than his head, I thought, “dear God, please don’t let him throw up. If he does, I’m going to have a mental breakdown.”

And hence, this text.

My friends all laughed and offered encouragement, because that’s what friends do. They knew I didn’t actually have suicidal thoughts over potential vomit, but they also knew that this summer has not been easy. It’s been hell.

I want to be clear here. It hasn’t been hell for my kids. In fact, I think they’ve basically had a great summer. They’ve seen all of their cousins on both sides and they’ve spent the rest of the time having sleepovers and pool parties. Claire made cupcakes and waffles and other treats constantly. Austin played more laser tag than he’s ever played in his life. Tommy learned to swim.

There were moments with my kids where I felt pure joy – sliding down a waterslide with them or watching them laugh with their friends. Everything was not terrible. But, if I’m being real, those moments were few and far between. Most days I had a breakdown, sometimes in front of my kids. Basically every day by mid-afternoon, I had some sort of anxiety attack about parenting or just missing Shawn. And don’t even ask me how I dealt with dinner or bedtime. It wasn’t pretty. There was a lot more yelling than last summer.

“Ugh,” I said to my friend and her husband one day, “I think my kids watched like six hours of TV today.”

“Oh don’t worry about that,” the husband said, “everyone’s kids watch six hours of TV during summer days.”

It’s not true. I know that most kids are not watching that much TV. But it made me feel a little better about my lack of structure.

Still, I have plenty of guilt about my sub-par parenting and my very sub-par attitude about parenting.

I have said many times that I just want to run away from my life. I’m not sure what this says about me. I know it wouldn’t actually make my anxiety any better and that ultimately I’d really miss my kids and my friends. I don’t really want to run away from the life I’ve built. When I say I want to run away, what I want to run away from is everything that’s become awful since Shawn died. I want to run away from bedtimes by myself every single night. I want to run away from being the only one who’s truly excited that Tommy can jump off the diving board. I want to run away from the anxiety. I want to run away from the grief.

This feeling – wanting to run away – is what has made me a sub-par parent this summer. Trust me, I’m the parent you look at when you want to feel better about your own parenting. I’m the one who’s likely to give in and let them get the ice cream at the ice cream truck when they haven’t yet had lunch. I’m the one who lets the kids watch television for the entire morning, and much of the afternoon, because I just can’t handle anything else. I’m the one who serves cereal for dinner at least twice a week all summer long.

I’m sure no one cares that I’m not a great parent right now. Everyone gets it. But you know who does care? Me.

I was telling my friend Becky about this the other day. I was lamenting the many hours of TV the kids watched that day and the fact that I’d just served a dinner that came from a box. “I know you feel bad,” Becky said, “but I bet when your kids grow up and look back on this time period, they will be amazed that you were able to give them a summer with lots of good memories.”

I hope she’s right. From my perspective, the summer was a shit show and one long anxiety attack. But my kids ate ice cream and built sand castles. They got to eat cereal for dinner all the time, and they learned a lot of new Minecraft moves. They had dance parties to bad pop music and their hair constantly smelled like chlorine.

They had just one parent the whole summer, and I was not a very good one. But we made it, or at least we stumbled together across the finish line.




  • Mary Grace

    Your children know you love them unconditionally and that is what they will remember. Even on bad days, filled with grief, they know you are there for them, even if you personally feel removed. No parent is perfect all the time. In the long run for all of us parents, love will be the only constant we can truly give them.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, thank you for saying this. And you’re right – none of us are perfect, so while I’m certainly a lot less perfect than I once was, I do know that they know I love them. xo

  • Paula Donnelly

    Every summer, my mom, siblings and I would go ‘camping’ (in an RV) with my grandparents for 2 weeks (my dad always “had to work” = he hates camping). During those 2 weeks, my mom’s philosophy was “Eat when you’re hungry. Go to bed when you’re tired.” A complete 180 from the other 50 weeks of the year; it was f*cking awesome. Your kids are going to remember an entire summer of that. So when you’re beating yourself up over it, know that they probably loved it, will understand it when they’re our age, and assume they’re getting what they need from their vitamins 🙂

    • Marjorie

      I love love love this and I am going to think about it when I feel bad about pizza that we’re having AGAIN tonight!

  • Mary Grace

    The one thing children need in their life is love. Even when you feel you are not at your best, your children know you love them. This is what they will always remember and it will not damage them at all to have a summer or summers with hours of TV and cereal for dinner!
    Sending you and the children hugs.

    • Marjorie

      I do know this in my heart, which helps with the guilt a lot. The other day, Tommy looked up from the screen he was watching and said out of nowhere, “I love love love you mama!” I thought, well, I’m not totally screwing him up.

  • Henry

    You love your kids; they know it; “they’ve basically had a great summer;” and “you were able to give them a summer with lots of good memories.”
    —> You are a wonderful parent. Q.E.D.

    Would Claire like my shortbread recipe?

    • Marjorie

      Oh yes she would! She’s quite the little baker, and although we’ll have less time to do it when school starts Monday, I know she’d love to try it on the weekend!

  • Carmelita Tomlin

    Exactly. You made it. As a therapist once told me: when all else fails lower your standards.
    You made it. You showed up . Hell, my kids watched too much tv when my husband was alive. As he used to say; doing the best we can.
    With love.

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I love this. And it’s so true. God – I love your therapist! I’m going to start saying the phrase. I may even need to write a blog post about it! Thanks so much for sharing, truly.

  • Jenna Free

    Marjorie, most of my memories of summer are of watching Spaceballs every single day. Seriously. My siblings and I can recite it to each other verbatim. And then we would take a break to eat English muffin pizzas and rootbeer floats before Days Of Our Lives started. Remember that our expectations of what summer should be for kids has changed– I don’t think my mom thought twice about letting us watch TV. And I’m not sure it was such a bad thing in the end!

    • Marjorie

      I know! My summers were the same, and I think we all probably need to take a page from the 1980s when thinking about what our kids do all day when school is out. It’s hard to do….so I love stories like this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Rebecca

    In the type-A NW DC neighborhood we hail from, that’s totally data- and results-driven, it’s so hard to keep a healthy perspective of what “good parenting” really is. But you’re providing unconditional love, which is more than meeting the mark. Whether hobbling or sprinting across the summer finish line, you all made it – that’s the important thing. You’ve got this. Sending love and light.

  • Carmelita Tomlin

    I really appreciate the time and energy you take to reply to our comments.
    Let’s support one another on this very difficult journey!

  • Meghan

    You and I lost our husbands around d the same time last year. Mine passed, rather suddenly from complications with pneumonia on 01/20/18. I wasn’t prepared (I mean, are you ever really?), And I have felt all of these things you have written about. TV was not something I grew up with and thus, neither had my children…until this summer. And like you, my kids had a pretty awesome summer.
    We travelled to So Cal where we went to the beach, hung out with family and friends, went to county fairs…back at home in the Houston area, we spend hours in pools, had sleep overs (my kids were 5 & 2 when he passed) and LOTS of time together…but in it all, I felt like such an awful and sub-par parent.
    I made the decision to go back to school (after 15+ years since graduating the first time) for nursing and I wasn’t prepared for the time commitment it was going to take…and this, TV as the babysitter.
    I have gotten better about time management over the last year and now both kids are in Kinder/PreK full time during the week which gives me a break…but they still have the tired and worn out Mom by the end of the day and all I want is a week off of everything…even though I know in the end, it isn’t going to fix anything.
    Everything I am saying you already know, but sometimes there is solidarity in knowing that there are others out there in your very similar position who truly do “get it” and I just wanted to give you an e-hugs -esque because you are doing what you can to give your kids and yourself normalcy in your “new” life…and I think you (even though I don’t know you) are doing an amazing job.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks so much for sharing all of this. It does help to know there are others out there, even if I wish there weren’t. When I’m feeling like a sub-par parent (which is frequent!) I try and remember Becky’s words from that post: my kids are going to be amazed, when they look back, that I survived these early years and they basically have good memories. And I know your kids will too.