Do I Matter Less?

I have a pet peeve. Actually, I have several…but today I’m going to bring up just one. Yesterday, in my social networking feed a post…or maybe it was an article…came through basically talking about this poor woman who’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As you guys know from prior posts…cancer once again, recently hit my family. We lost a family member. I am completely sympathetic to this woman and her battle.

What set me off? The post read something like this “poor woman just had a baby, then was diagnosed with breast cancer…how tragic.” Really? Having a child is what makes this tragic? Because what that statement intimated to me was that if you don’t have children, then cancer isn’t nearly as tragic or devastating to you. Let me count the ways that this rubbed me wrong. First, I have a friend who developed bladder cancer as a small child. Treatments included issues with bodily function control..and did permanent damage to her reproductive organs, guaranteeing she will never have a child biologically speaking. And she still has health issues…not to mention is devastated every time she hears about someone else having a child…not because she begrudges them the joy. She doesn’t. She just wishes she could experience those joys for herself.

Another friend was unlucky enough to have inherited the BRCA gene which gives her an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and/or uterine cancer. This means that she is in the process of removing everything that makes her female as a preventative measure. Her sister also has this gene….but has children. So somehow this is so much more tragic for her sister. Really? This may sound a tad insensitive, but at least should something happen, her sister has a legacy she’ll be able to leave behind…not that you ever WANT to leave them behind.

I have another friend who had breast cancer, fought it, beat it…then developed uterine issues that concerned her oncologist enough to recommend a complete hysterectomy. Immediately. She’d been a career woman up to this point, not in any rush to have children…thinking she’d have time to find the right man first. The opportunity taken. By cancer.

And then there are the men…who also can be diagnosed and die of cancer…do they get less sympathy or empathy simply because they’re not able to give birth?

Ya’ll get the point. The thing is, I doubt that this is how the person posting meant to come across…but words are like that.

Unfortunately this isn’t the only time I’ve seen red over people with/without children. Please, don’t misunderstand… I LOVE kids. I adore great parents. I think it’s the best gift you could give both to your child and the world. (I was blessed with an amazing mom who is still my role model…no comment on dad.)

So you can imagine my shock and anger when on a conversation over the phone with a fairly new friend he tells me, “You will never truly understand or appreciate God’s love or grace until I have a child.” Really? Now most of you have already caught on to the fact that I’m a pretty controlled person…to a fault.

On that day my facade cracked. I believe my first (and most honest) response went something like this. “That’s asinine. Did you just hear what you said? Are you stupid?” And believe it or not, his comment hurt me so much that I was in tears. Because I understand only too well what a sinner I am…and I have read the Medical Description Of His Crucifiction. That kind of love outdoes even the sacrifices my mom made for me. I did not have to produce offspring to know or understand.

Honestly, that was also the beginning of the end to our friendship. Because as he explained his point of view, he just dug a deeper hole for himself, disqualifying everything because he was a parent. Because children make every person suddenly a good parent, right? (Infuse sarcasm here).
If only…

This also calls to mind a horrifically tragic situation that happened one day when I was working in the emergency. A family brought their 18 month old into the emergency room for lethargy and failure to thrive. They had no sooner got him into the back when he went into respiratory distress. The nurses lined up and took turns performing CPR, hoping to stabilize him while they did tests. It turned out he had a large tumor in his brain. His family was fundamentalist and didn’t believe in modern medicine except in emergent situations, so he hadn’t had any tests or doctors visits prior to this one. Unfortunately, the little guy didn’t make it.

As I sat there, hurting for this family…not wishing that kind of loss on anyone, I heard a family member say, “at least you have the other kids.” Like that negates the loss or care or heartache somehow? All I could think in my head was “Shut UP!” What kind of comfort was that?

See what I mean? Words! Whether intentional or not…they can have seriously damaging effects! Choosing them wisely can sometimes be the biggest gift you can give a person. They can also be the reason for ending things. I’ve occasionally been the person to choose words unwisely, but I try to be careful. I try to consider how my words might impact the people I love. But, I’m not perfect.

What statements or words have you heard that have set you off? Or cut you to the quick? What are your pet peeves?

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38 thoughts on “Do I Matter Less?

  1. radaronelson says:

    I have so many, I couldn’t list them all but as for the cancer, I agree it doesn’t matter if you have kids, don’t have kids, or are a kid, cancer is tragic even if the person recovers it is still something that no one should have to deal with but unfortunately a lot of us have.

  2. Don't Quote Lily says:

    I see why that upset you. You’re right, some people really don’t realize how words can come off. To imply that cancer isn’t so bad if someone has no kids, that’s wrong in so many ways. Nobody deserves to go through that pain and suffering, regardless of marital status or if they have kids. And what your ex friend said, totally stupid too. What, he thinks he’s a saint now because he’s a parent? Ahhh, people. I know no one’s perfect but man, some people need to hear themselves speak.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Exactly! Sometimes I think it would be very educational for people if I walked around with a digital recorder that turned on at the sound of a person’s voice so that they could hear themselves. Ugh!

  3. lenwilliamscarver says:

    My fingers and eyes would fall off/out if I had to write about all of my pet peeves at one time. In agreement with this pet peeve, this one hit home when you said you heard someone say ‘at least you have other children’ I lost my adult daughter to domestic violence, I heard this statement and was devastated ‘ do you think it is like a broken dish, just replace her?” that is what I wanted to say but my grief was so deep I could not. I have heard so many stupid remarks and I know it is because people mean well (most of the time) but I really wish they would think before opening mouth and inserting both feet. Here are others I heard… she had a good long life, (she didn’t get to be a m-i-l or g-mom, or see her sons go to college)
    why did she stay, she could have gotten out. (maybe she was trying and that is why he killed her), other stupid ones but to painful to write. Just know I understand what you are saying here and agree.

  4. vimal says:

    hugs…

    i get very irritated when I hear loud-mouths boasting..
    but i always keep calm… 🙂
    also people who pass cutting remarks trying to get a response out of me. I let it slide… he, he

  5. Natalie Hartford says:

    I hear ya on that one! I have chosen not to have children and sometimes people can be very insensitive in their remarks because it’s like I am not a real woman or something!?! Like I don’t understand the true value in life??? Like my life has “less” value because I’ve decided not to procreate…it’s hurtful and feels mean although I know it’s just ignorance….but annoying none the less. We all need to be sensitive and aware of our words and their impact….I definitely try my best and fingers crossed I do ok.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Oh, Natalie…I sooo get that, too. It is especially bad in the part of FL I live in. Apparently if you don’t have a “baby daddy” or have been married at least once by 30, you are defective. Of course many of the people out here seem to start at about 16. 😡

      You know what I hate? When discussing vacations and time off requests…tell me if you’ve heard this one…”I have a family, so I’ll need to have x holiday off.” As if not having children negates having a family. Ugh!

  6. Jane Sadek says:

    I so hear you. I am a cancer survivor. My husband and I married shortly after I’d had a mastectomy and reconstruction from my own tissue. We made a decision not to put my body through any more trauma and pour our lives into our nieces and nephews. Fast forward to today and said nieces and nephews are having their own children. Sad thing is, the family is from a Middle Eastern culture and somehow I’m a second class citizen because of our choice. Perhaps I should have died in childbirth or maybe, since chances of conception were low, I should have poured our money into fertility treatments instead of cars and weddings and immigration for said nieces and nephews. People really can be quiet idiotic.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      ::hugs:: People can truly be very insensitive. Thanks for sharing your survivor story. I’m sorry that your relatives don’t seem to appreciate the benefits they’ve been given because of the very smart, very tough choices you made.

  7. Cotton Boll Conspiracy says:

    I’m fortunate in that I’ve not had to personally experience the stupidity that you and the others who have commented here have been through. I do tire, however, of hearing things such as television news broadcasts that begin “A car crash today claimed five lives, including that of a child.” A life is a life. The other four people may not have been children, but they could well have had children. And they all had families who don’t need to have their loss diminished by having their loved ones treated as being of less importance. Just my 2 cents.

  8. beliebinme says:

    A really great post! I completely agree with everything. It’s so annoying, and it often pisses me off. However, I do understand, especially when it comes to articles and stuff like that. People naturally feel more sympathy for a child than for an adult, so they add it in for the sympathy factor and something to get people talking about. It’s like if an adult got killed in a crash, no one would really pay that much attention, but if they hear about a child killed in a crash, it becomes a huge tragedy and everyone cares. Both cases should be treated the same way.
    And that person who said, “At least you have other children.” What’s his or her name and address? I’m afraid they need a punch straight in the face.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      I think everyone gets that people tend to get sympathetic when a child is involved. The thing is, everyone is SOMEONE’S child, so there are ways to allow people to recognize that without harping on only (or predominantly) the child…you know?

      As for the “at least you have other children” person…no idea where they lived, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t. Makes me wonder, though, if someone had been stupid enough to say that to my mom when we lost my younger brothers.

        • Kitt Crescendo says:

          Thanks…and you’d be surprised at the words that come out when you’re struggling to find the words to say to comfort a loved one. Intentional or not, things can fall off the lips that can be almost as devastating as the loss. If you’ve read some of the comments other people have written, you’ll see what I mean.

  9. Charron's Chatter says:

    As a sensitive sort, there have been infinite phrases that have hurt–intended and otherwise–but one wise thing I remember is this: You cannot uncommunicate. You can say you’re sorry till the cows come home, but once spoken it’s out there, and no number of apologies can ever undo the impact of your words. So, choose ’em carefully, and pass this along to all the insensitive boors out there, would you? (ha! as if they see any failing…)

  10. Emma says:

    Words can hurt, but most of the time people don’t intend to be nasty or cause someone distress. My blood boils when someone says to me or my single friends ‘Oh, you’re single! That’s okay. I’m sure he’ll come along. Don’t worry, you still have time.” Thank you for telling me it’s okay to be single and also reminding me that the clock is ticking. Cheers. (And deep breath) 🙂

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      LOL! Oh, Emma…I have been there. Everyone assumed that hubby was the reason we hadn’t yet married, though we’d been together off and on for 16 years. When we got engaged, a friend said, “See? If you’re just patient enough, it will happen, eventually.” I looked at him, laughed, and said, “Ben, what makes you think I was the one waiting?” You should have seen the look on his face. Why does everyone assume because we’re female that we’re looking for mister right? The truth is, sometimes all we want is mister right now…and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      So is it any less tragic when a mother loses a child? Or a friend loses a friend? In any of these situations, someone is experiencing loss, right? Is it worse to be the child who has to grow up & live the rest of their life without their parent? Or is it worse to be the parent who lives on long after they lose a child? And when does one stop being someone’s child?

  11. wordsurfer says:

    I agree with you, both that it’s very thoughtless to say that (even though I’m sure it wasn’t meant like that!) and also that words can hurt extremely. The problem is, in my experience, that even if you choose your words wisely, there is always the danger of someone misunderstanding, or rather, understanding it within a different frame of context. No communication is the same in the head of the sender and the receiver, everybody filters it according to their own attitudes, thoughts, learned behaviour (cultural differences as well, again!). For example, you could also have picked up and become upset on the fact that the person said it was tragic that the woman in question had cancer – what about all the other horrible diseases out there? I don’t mean to argue with the fact that it’s not right to say that any victim of any disease is more or less badly hit than any other, but just illustrating the point that it’s impossible to safeguard your words against all possible misinterpretations. Or “mis”interpretations. Maybe it would be better to just say ‘interpretations’.
    A different point: what I hate, hate, hate in communication is something that your (ex-)friend on the phone used and that reduces me to tears and screams of frustration: when someone else tells you that you do not understand something, or do not see something the “correct” way because you are not / do not have x, y or z. (“You’ll see this differently when you get to my age.” – “You don’t get this, you’re not married.” – “That’s your opinion NOW, but once you’re [insert whatever you want here], THEN you’ll know what it’s REALLY like.”) It drives me up the wall because it’s unfair, stupid, and an effective end to communicating at all – if you’re not interested in what I have to say and only want an endorsement of your own opinion, why are we talking again?
    🙂

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