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Monday, February 6, 2023

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Blame Game

I was driving around one day and Howard Jones’ song, “No one is to blame” came on; it was one of those moments that I laughed and cried at the same time.  I laughed remembering the Howard Jones (do you remember this guy and his hair?!) t-shirt my sister often wore to show her alternative music “street cred” and I cried because it reminded me of the conversation I had with my OB/GYN after he got confirmation that I had breast cancer. 

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I loved my OB/GYN, Dr. E.  It was because of my desire to say good-bye to him (and dutifulness to get an annual exam before moving to Fredericksburg) that I found out I had cancer.  I often think about how long it could have been until I or a new doctor would have found the lump. 

My phone rings, I see the caller ID and I answer, with a quiet, almost guilt-ridden tone.  I hear Dr. E’s voice on the other end, saying my name loudly, in a way that I knew he was conveying a “well, this sucks” sentiment.  He let me know the team had conveyed everything to him and he asked me how I was handling the news. 

I remember kind of spinning into a guilt-ridden soliloquy about self-examinations and reflecting on how I should’ve rescheduled my August physical sooner (because viral meningitis and my mother-in-law’s death weren’t enough to release my guilt apparently).  

And then, with such great timing and one heck of a New York accent, Dr. E says to me, “What are you trying to figure out, Virginia? The cancer is to blame here…” 

I think about this conversation a lot because the guilt creeps in every once in awhile and hearing Dr. E.’s voice in my head just makes me laugh and feel better about things.  But, I also think about how Dr. E. knew that I was looking for someone to blame.  Why was I doing that?   

Searching for that person seems just as toxic as the cancer itself. 

I didn’t make my cancer happen and nobody can control whether the cancer will come back in the future.  Trying to come to terms with that is hard enough, but parenting young children through uncertainty is all the more exhausting.  Fear and anger are so very intertwined. 

Children will come across many instances in their lives when there will simply be no explanations, no one to blame.  And that’s o.k. Our job as parents is to help them develop coping mechanisms to handle such ordeals. 

Of course, we aren’t perfect – we too lash out at people when they really aren’t the problem.  But, I think when our children see us looking, searching for that person to blame, we may inadvertently teach them that it’s not o.k. to make mistakes. 

I think, in some ways, I may have accidentally created a perfectionist child (who am I kidding, children) who are afraid to make mistakes and thus don’t want to be thought of as failures.  Unfortunately, this fear of failure leads to a deflection of responsibility.  I see it all too often with my oldest child using the younger one as his target to take the blame for his mess. 

I read the other day, “The worst mistake anyone can make is being too afraid to make one.” Here’s to freeing myself (and hopefully, my children) from playing the blame game – because, what are we really trying to figure out (win)?

 

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