Not for the first time I found myself admiring Nick Clegg today. He and his wife, Miriam, spoke inspiringly about their fourteen year old son’s recent battle with cancer and their rollercoaster of emotions; feeling angry, guilty, anxious and relieved. Anyone who had a loved one go through a serious health journey like that will be able to relate, at least in part, to their experience but the agony is surely compounded when its a child; your child.
Nick Clegg – a man for whom the historians will in years to come treat him more kindly and fairly than many of his contemporaries have done – spoke about the feeling that all parents experience when their child is ill – that desire, that heartfelt, gut wrenching, desperate desire to take away your child’s pain, illness, cough, runny nose or sore knee in an instant and transfer that pain or sickness to you. You would do anything to swap places, to remove the burden from them and assume it for your own. As he spoke today I found myself nodding along rigorously after a few days – and very restless nights – of Miss J having a cough and a cold.
Let me be 100% clear; I am not for one minute equating the agony the Cleggs have just endured and continue to enjoy with their son in remission but still receiving three-monthly check ups – with my daughter having a cold. But, the feeling of constant anxiety at any sign of discomfort isn’t a respecter of how severe your child’s ailment is – it comes the parenting territory regardless.
I love being a dad, truly love it. It by far the most important, rewarding, moving, awe-inspiring, joyful, precious, fulfilling and wonderfully dominating thing I have ever been fortunate to be able to do. If I had not been a dad I hope that my life would have found all of those things in other ways – I wasn’t obsessed about being a parent but was lucky to meet my extraordinary wife and then – after one heartbreaking near miss – to be blessed with the little girl who has lit up our lives. Being a dad, I know now the incomparable feeling you get when your little person is sick. As someone who has suffered from – and continues to suffer from – anxiety, I know a thing or two about it. But nothing – absolutely nothing – compares to the worry and anxiety you face when the person your life is built around and you have responsibility for is suffering from something you cannot fix.
I have been fortunate in my parenting career to date to not have faced the agony that Nick Clegg and his wife have faced – I thank god for that today and every day – but it doesn’t mean that I don’t understand, at least a little, their pain. My heart breaks for them today but is lifted by the progress their son is making. Not for the first time, I agree with Nick.
Photo take from BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-41257862/nick-clegg-and-miriam-gonzalez-durantez-on-son-s-cancer