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A letter of apology to my kids

Dear Nathaniel and Rachael,

Although many, if not most, of the things I’m going to talk about here were far beyond our control, our ability to do differently and no one’s fault, I feel the need to address them.

I’m sorry your sister got cancer.  I’m sorry for what this meant for the past years of your lives.  I’m sorry your childhood was marred by the knowledge of cancer, chemotherapy and loss.  I’m sorry for the time that can never be regained and the innocence forever gone.  I’m sorry for all of us, but especially you.

I’m sorry I asked you to be forgiving when your sister treated you in ways that would have gotten a stranger laid flat out with a mama-given sucker punch.  I’m sorry that you had to be afraid in your home, fearful of awakening the beast that slept inside your sister more times than I can count.   I’m sorry for the times she yelled hatefully at you, pinched you, made ugly faces at you and generally made your life a living hell. I’m sorry that you lost that sweet baby sister for so long, to have her replaced with the angry, cranky, sick child that came home from that first hospital stay. I’m sorry that THIS became your new normal life.

I’m sorry for the mornings I wasn’t there to make your lunch and kiss you goodbye in front of the school.  I’m sorry for the nights we had to say goodnight over the phone and I could hear the tears you were so bravely holding back….or not holding back.  I’m sorry for the times when you woke up in the night to find that I was gone with your sister to the hospital, the days you were picked up from school by someone telling you that we were inpatient. I’m sorry I wasn’t there every bedtime to hug your freshly bathed body and get a toothpasty kiss. I’m sorry for the nights you went to sleep wondering what was happening, what was wrong with your sister and I wasn’t there to explain and comfort.

I’m sorry for the menu plans that heavily rotated around McDonalds and Cracker Barrel.  I’m sorry for the mornings we woke up to realize there were no clean uniform bottoms and you had to wear the least dirty ones to school.  I’m sorry for not realizing your shoes were too small until they’d given you a blister.  I’m sorry for the mornings you woke me up instead of the other way around.

I’m sorry for the times you felt jealous when cards and gifts came for your sister and you got nothing.  I’m sorry for those moments when you stood there unnoticed as another person asked, “How’s Peyton?” and didn’t ask how you were doing.  I’m sorry for the times when your own friends said hello to Peyton first and oohed and ahhed over her when they should have been clustering around you.

I’m sorry for the last-minute book reports and projects that were forgotten. I’m sorry for the field trips and competitions and sports days that I wasn’t there to be a part of and to cheer you on.  I’m sorry for the day you lost that math competition and needed me to hug you and tell you how proud I was of you for even being chosen to go but I could only talk to you on the phone. I’m sorry for the cupcakes I couldn’t bring, the cookies I didn’t bake and the class parties that I made you take Publix baked good.  I’m sorry for the birthday parties we missed, the playdates we couldn’t make.

I’m sorry for the times I bought gifts to keep you busy instead of spending the time with you that I should have.  I’m sorry for the nights when I didn’t have any more to give than to kiss your lips goodnight and tell you I’d read you a story the next night.  I’m sorry for the many MANY nights your sister was allowed to sleep in our bed and I told you that you couldn’t.

I’m sorry for the too-many-to-count trips to the hospital.  I’m sorry that you had to see your sister sick, weak, looking rather scary.  I’m sorry for the times you had to eat hospital food for dinner, but those cheese sticks are pretty good.  I’m sorry you had to watch your sister go bald, get fuzzy, go bald again so many times.  I’m sorry you had to learn that cancer kills people and understand that your sister had THAT.

I’m sorry you had to see and hear me cry so many times.  I’m sorry I wasn’t a stronger mother and able to suck it up until I was alone.  I’m sorry you had to make friends at support group who could identify with what your life was, although those are super friends and you would have loved them anyway.  I’m sorry for the times you comforted me and were responsible for the only bright moments in my day.

I’m sorry for the times I yelled, snapped or barked at you for minor things. I’m sorry that I projected my anger and frustration at our situation onto you way too many times. I’m sorry for all the times I was at the end of my rope and left you dangling by a string. I’m sorry for the times I should have spent time with you and I had to leave instead, had to go do something for me.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be the mother I should have been over the past 24 months, that I had to focus so much of my attention on your sister and never had enough for you. I will be eternally sorry for that.

I’m sorry for those conversations about Heaven and where our friends went….you’ll never know how sorry I am for that.  I’m sorry that you have to understand what death is. I’m sorry that I couldn’t put it all back together. I’m sorry that you lost that “my mom can fix anything” way too early in life.

I’m so sorry that I can’t tell you it’s going to be ok.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you that our lives will ever go back to normal. I’m sorry that I can’t promise you that your sister will always be with us.  I’m sorry that when you ask me now, I can’t promise that your world will ever be right again.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you the cancer is gone for good and will never come back, I wish I could.

I hope you know that although it might have felt differently, I love you two every bit as much as it is possible to love another human being, as much as I love your sister.  You are just as precious, treasured and adored.  I am thankful every day for the privilege of being your mother and I could not have gotten more perfect children.  I pray that someday you will understand what happened during this time and that you will be forgiving of the many upsets and mistakes that were made.  Mostly, I just pray that you always know how much you are loved.




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33 Comments on “A letter of apology to my kids”

  1. #1 DunnRight
    on Jun 30th, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    This was heartbreaking and beautiful. I’m sure they know. I’m sure that deep down, they know and understand. You may not think so because they are young, but they know you love them just as much as her and vice versa.
    This was such a pure post, one of my favorites! You’re so strong, Anissa!

  2. #2 nik
    on Jun 30th, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I know this had to have been a hard letter to right and I can only imagine all the pain you went through with each tap of a key. Your children are lucky to have a mom like you and I agree with DunnRight. Your kids know deep down.

    I don’t know you, or your family, but my heart goes out to you all. Many positive thoughts your way. Big hugs!

  3. #3 My Cancer Treatments » Blog Archive » A letter of apology to my kids
    on Jun 30th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt […]

  4. #4 Lori
    on Jun 30th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Dear Anissa,
    Your letter to Nathaniel and Rachel is soooo heartwrenchingly beautiful…thank you for sharing that with us!
    One thing that came to mind as I read were the times in my childhood and even as an adult when I was majorly hurt by something or felt left out and how the ONE thing that would have meant so much were the simple words “I’m sorry…” People aren’t always comfortable with apologies…some think it makes them weak. I think it takes a person of ENORMOUS character to admit they wish they’d been able to do things differently. And, like the other comment someone made, I DO believe firmly that your kids will one day understand the sacrifices ALL OF YOU have had to make. Cancer affects the WHOLE family–as you so very well know! I believe your kids will say to you that they understand and accept your apology wholeheartedly…
    You are doing the best you can—and just like all of us, sometimes we fall short. Hugs, Lori

  5. #5 Karen Sugarpants
    on Jun 30th, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    I’m sure they know all this, deep down. This was beautiful and bittersweet though.
    I wish Thomas’ wish could come true. Mush love and strength to you and your family.

  6. #6 Marie
    on Jul 1st, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Ok just let me blink the tears out of my eyes so I can see the screen to type this comment. Gosh…beautiful letter. Have they read it or is it something you want to show them when they’re older? I think it will mean a lot. Even though I’ve never met you, I have seen through your journal how much you love the “other two” – non cancer children. There are so many cancer journal websites where the other children are not really mentioned but you always write about Rachael and Nathaniel with such love.

    There’s a book you might be interested in that kind of deals with this topic, “My Sisters Keeper” by Jodi Piccoult. You will probably relate to it though it might be a little too close to home. Anyway you might want to check it out.

  7. #7 Karalyn
    on Jul 1st, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Can I come give you a hug right now?
    What a heartfelt letter of apology.
    You have GREAT kids Anissa, you must be doing something right.

  8. #8 Angela
    on Jul 2nd, 2008 at 6:18 am

    Dear Anissa,
    Tears streaming down my face and loving you so much. May we all tell our kids everyday in our words and actions how much we love and cherish them. I know Rachael and Nathaniel love you too.

  9. #9 Brenda Vosejpka
    on Jul 2nd, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Wow! I cried..and cried while reading this entry. Anissa…you always amaze me with your words. Usually they are so witty and funny. But mixed in with those witty and funny words are words of love for all three kids. Iv always been able to see it. Im sure they have seen it too.

    The one thing I have noticed is the time you spend writing about each child. Not just Peyton. Its never just been about Peyton…Nathaniel and Rachael have always been there too. Mixed in the words of your writings..each and every time. Sometimes I feel as if I can see all three of them. Even with the sibling rivaly and the normal dissagreements siblings have. I have always been able to see the love they have for their sister. And..I have ALWAYS been able to see the love you have for them…ALL three of them. I think they see it too.

    Your kids are blessed! Very blessed! (and so is Pete) 😉

    The road your traveling isnt one that anyone would chose. You didnt chose it…it was chosen for you. And I dont think anyone else could have handled it with the grace, style, caring and compassion like you have.

    God bless you Annisa! Brenda

  10. #10 Elinor
    on Jul 3rd, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Anissa, I follow your blogs but missed this one which I just finished with both tears in my eyes and the highest admiration for you and the way you love your children. I am sure they all know how deep your love is and also know that you would have chosen not to have to write this letter to them, if you could.

  11. #11 Black Hockey Jesus
    on Aug 2nd, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I hope that the people N & R become are such that you will be relieved of being so sorry.

    Black Hockey Jesuss last blog post..TuneUp

  12. #12 Posts that moved me…posts that moved you… « PhD in Parenting Blog
    on Aug 2nd, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    […] A letter of apology to my kids: A mom of 3 kids whose youngest child has cancer writes a letter of apology to her other two children for all of the difficulties it has caused them and all that they have had to give up and live without. […]

  13. #13 A Pretty Mess » Blog Archive » Getting My PSA’s From An Animated Movie
    on Aug 14th, 2008 at 11:00 am

    […] —www.hope4peyton.org […]

  14. #14 RC
    on Sep 9th, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    They will understand, and they love you.

    And although it is tough, they will know you did the best you could. And they will admire your for it.

    I know it isn’t a life or death situation for me, but believe it or not, as a mom who works outside the home (with a commute I would rather not talk about), I do understand to some extent. I always feel like I’m short-changing my child in my effort to make certain we keep our house, pay the bills, etc.

    I am in no way comparing my situation to your situation, but I understand how torn you feel.

    They will forgive you. They will even find happy memories during the sad times. These challenges they have had to face at such young ages will make them stronger adults – more compassionate adults.

    You are doing fine.

    And I’m so glad I’ve met you through your blog. Take care.

  15. #15 Alaina
    on Sep 11th, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Will you pass me a tissue?

  16. #16 field trip friday | Hope4Peyton
    on Oct 8th, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    […] I know that there is always the chance that I will have to disappoint him…again. […]

  17. #17 Tonya
    on Dec 12th, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    well gosh darn it, now I feel the need to go apologize to my kids for yelling at them this morning. Needed that wake up call.

    What a beautiful letter. They are very lucky to have you as their mum.

  18. #18 A Lost Writer
    on Dec 23rd, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    That was beautiful. It let me cry. I’ve been falling apart because my only son’s Coats Disease has recurred. I’ve been trying to keep my chin up and not doing too well – despite writing a rambling post about giving thanks 15 minutes back. I still have no idea how I’m going to terms with this – but it’s comforting to know that mothers the world over feel for their kids this way no matter what. Sorry, I’m rambling again. God bless you and your family.

  19. #19 JD
    on Jan 11th, 2009 at 2:27 am

    I was very touched by your letter… I, too, have confessed many apologies to my children for my shortcomings over the years… not under the same circumstances as yours, but for very significant reasons just the same.

    It also made me look back on my own mother’s life, and the things she apologized to US kids about over the years. For example – she didn’t leave my father when I was 4 and told her he’d been molesting me, took him back after he served his sentence when I told on him again at the age of 12, and only finally left him when I told on him again when I was 15. The guilt still haunts her, and it breaks MY heart that it haunts her, because I love her dearly, I have forgiven her years ago, there was nothing to forgive — she loved us, took great care of us, did the best she could, and she’s one of my best friends. I wouldn’t have wanted to change anything if given the chance — those things happened for a reason, and they made me who I am today. She kept ME from falling apart for so many years… I owe her my life. My mom ROCKS!!!

    Your kids will love and respect you for the wonderful mom that you have been, and will continue to be. Life is HARD, but in the midst of those trials, you are teaching them to live it the best you can, that you can and will stumble, but that you’ll also pick yourself up, dust yourself off, admit that you’re human and keep on going.

    Besides, you’re so funny, you’ll have them laughing so hard, they’ll be too busy laughing to worry about much :o)

  20. #20 My Favorite Places on the Internet
    on Apr 28th, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    […] the recommendation? Read this post on Anissa’s blog A Letter of Apology to My Kids. If after reading that you still wonder why I would recommend Anissa then don’t ask. […]

  21. #21 Whatever it may be | #FreeAnissa
    on Aug 17th, 2009 at 8:58 am

    […] be. Because I fail on a daily basis.  Sometimes my failure is an hourly thing.  There was nothing awesome about it.  There was […]

  22. #22 September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Here’s to many more Septembers with Peyton | #FreeAnissa
    on Sep 1st, 2009 at 11:02 am

    […] That’s LIFE with cancer.  You can NOT have the disease. I think it’s impossible to NOT have the fear.  The scars are forever. […]

  23. #23 Michelle @ doudoubebe.com
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 12:25 am

    What a beautiful and touching letter – I’m sorry I came upon it at a time when your family is once again gathering together to overcome. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  24. #24 Vodka Logic
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 1:02 am

    I am so sorry for all you are going through. What a thoughtful and gracious letter to your children. If they don’t understand now they will and be thankful they have such a caring and loving mother.
    take care. xx

  25. #25 Anissa | PhD in Parenting
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 9:58 am

    […] A letter of apology to my kids […]

  26. #26 Karen
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Just reading this via PhD in Parenting. What a beautiful heartfelt letter. I’m wishing you well. I’m so sorry for what you and your family are going through right now, and I want you to be ok. You deserve nothing less and so very much more. Be better xo.

  27. #27 Abby
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    This letter really hit home with me as I grew up with a brother with cancer so I can really understand what they went/are going through. I can tell you that though you may not always understand while you’re going through the hard times, when you grow up and reflect back you completely understand and appreciate the way your mom was always by your sibling’s side. If you were the one who was sick, you would have wanted her to do the same for you (and she would have). Now that I have children of my own, I truly understand how hard everything was for her and how it was never a choice of my brother over me.

    I’m really sorry that I came across this letter due to your current situation and wish you a full and speedy recovery. Life is really so unfair and crappy sometimes, but you will come out of this even stronger. I am thinking of you and praying for you and your family.

  28. #28 Crystal Gold
    on Nov 18th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I have jumped over here from Phdinparenting. I have to say that I am so touched by this post. It had my heart in my throat the entire time I read it. I know that most parents will never have to battle as you have, but I think that many parents can still relate so much to what you have said here. We all feel we have failed our children in one way or another, to some degree. Your compassion for what your children have endured is remarkable. They are very blessed to have such a warm and thoughtful mother. You are an inspiration and I will be following much more closely from now on.

    I have just heard of the battle you are now facing and I hope you know that the entire community of your online family is pulling for you and thinking of you. You have obviously touched the souls of many. I pray that you have a full and swift recovery and continue to share your life and thoughts with the world.

    Crystal Gold

  29. #29 Al_Pal
    on Nov 21st, 2009 at 8:44 am

    *sniff* So touching.

    Wishing/praying/good-vibing for your full recovery!

  30. #30 Tanya
    on Nov 27th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Just beautiful. Your post brought me to tears. Children are inherently wise, and I’m sure they know how you feel and how much they are loved.


  31. #31 Tanya
    on Nov 27th, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    oops that should read

  32. #32 She’s Stronger Than Me – That I Know
    on Nov 29th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    […] how I first happened across Anissa Mayhew’s blog. However, after reading this post “A Letter of Apology to My Kids” I was taken. I was impressed by her honesty. I wanted to hug my kids, hug her, curse the […]

  33. #33 amy
    on May 6th, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Your kids will read this someday and understand. All of it.. the years spent dealing with cancer and then with your recovery. You are an amazing mother to write this for them. And I am sure they understand where you were coming from then and now.

    I think what they will most take away from these experiences is what a strong and wonderful woman you are and how much you have had to FIGHT and continue to do so to do right by all of them. By being the best mom you could be, whatever the circumstance.

    Cheers to you Anissa. You are one incredible woman.