Taking Each Day as it Comes. Not Today Thank You!

‘Just take each day as it comes.’ If I had a pound every time a well-meaning friend or even complete stranger said this to me …. I don’t think I need to finish this sentence, do I?

If you are a regular reader of blogs authored by the parents of children born prematurely or with additional or complex needs, you’ll have no doubt read many wonderful ‘what not to say’ posts, listing those often kindly-meant sentiments that can plunge us into despondency or despair. A particular favourite one of mine, by one of my particularly favourite bloggers, can be found here on Tatum’s Ain’t no Rollercoaster.

Much as I cringe or internally combust at the ‘I’m sure he’ll grow out it’ (brain damage? you’ll think he’ll grow out it?) or ‘well he’s a boy and they’re always a bit behind because they’re lazy’ (lazy? he has fought meningitis and battles the mixed messages his brain sends his limbs every minute of every day just to do the simplest things and you think he’s lazy?), my personal pet hate is ‘just take each day as it comes’.

After a concerned and kind mum said this to me (it’s probably about the 850th time someone or other has said it to me this year) at the school gates this morning, I started to ponder why this galled me so much. Living in the moment, after all, is an important life lesson and one I’ve come to appreciate the hard way over the last 13 months, during which I’ve spent so much time worrying about what was or wasn’t happening that I frequently failed to appreciate the little miracles (clenched fists opening, arms reaching out) that were happening each day. But she didn’t say ‘live in the moment’. And I don’t think that’s what she meant. She meant, I surmise from the rest of our conversation, don’t think too far ahead, don’t burden yourself with worry over what the next 18 years has in store. Take a step at a time.

It’s good advice, but I still can’t take it. What’s my problem?

First of all, it’s that this is such a redundant comment. How else can you live life other than by taking each day as it comes? All parents do this and, dare I say it, parents of babies born early or sick or with special needs have to turn this into an art form. So much is thrown our way. Everything can be fine. You can learn, as I did, to ‘take it’ that your little boy probably has cerebral palsy. And then when you think you can’t take any more infantile spasms can come out of nowhere to sideswipe you and ruin your little girl’s Christmas. But you know what? You take it and you deal with it.

So parents like me take and get took on a regular basis. But I still don’t want to take each day as it comes. Because underlying this trite little phrase seems to be an implicit criticism: that I am not leading my life in the best way; that I am looking too far ahead; that I am worrying too much.

Maybe. But you know, looking ahead, planning for the future, worrying … they are my prerogative. My job. I do these things for his healthy, older big sister and I have every right to do this for Mr Boo. In fact, he needs me to do it more than his sister does. Because very few things, beyond love and laughter, come naturally to Mr Boo. He and we have to MAKE things happen for him.

And that’s the crux of it all for me. Taking is such an ambiguous verb. We can ‘take the bull by the horns’. Great. Or we can be resigned and ‘take what’s coming to us’, ‘take one day at a time’. Let me tell you: there’s no room for ambiguity in our lives.

We are makers not takers, and as exhausting as it often is, I’m not going to relax into our new life. I’m not going to resist it either or tell myself I can conjure up a new reality by a misguided act of will. But I am going to plan ahead, to work out different possibilities, to research all the options and work with my family to do what’s best for all of us.

I know you’re trying to be kind. I know you want things to be easier for us. I am grateful. Believe me. I really am. But please, don’t tell me to take each day as it comes.

You see, I just can’t take it any more.

11 thoughts on “Taking Each Day as it Comes. Not Today Thank You!

  1. Leoarna

    As Philip Larkin said ‘Where can we live but days? That question will send the men in white coats running over the hills’… or something like. Any way, what he meant was that we will go mad if we try to live anywhere else but in the life we are in. Which is what you are doing; with thought, and care, (and understandable worry) and with determination…. Good for you. x

  2. Helene Kydd

    I had this on my fridge for months
    What are days for?
    Days are where we live.
    They come, they wake us
    Time and time over.
    They are to be happy in:
    Where can we live but days?

    Ah, solving that question
    Brings the priest and the doctor
    In their long coats
    Running over the fields.

    The thing I do know is sometimes finding the right words to offer is fraught and even impossible. For me the unforgiveable thing is when people avoid meeting or just don’t try to grapple with finding some words.

    A while ago a friend of my teenage daughter’s mum died. I persuaded my daughter to write. She ended up writing and in the writing spoke of how difficult it was for her to find the right words. That’s ok.

    In the same way that there is no right way to grieve there is also no right way to comfort….x

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thanks, Helene, for your lovely comment. And for the poem. It may need to go on my fridge, too!

      I understand completely what you are saying about there being no right way to grieve or to comfort. To be honest, this is something The Grumposaur and I grapple with on a week-by-week basis. We are in quite different places sometimes and knowing what to say can be so difficult. If it’s difficult with the person I’ve been with for over 18 years and whom I know and who knows me better than anyone, how hard must it be for friends and acquaintances?

      But you’re right. It’s far worse to say nothing or avoid contact. That has happened a bit, but not too much, so I do feel lucky.

      1. Helene

        I understand that thing about seeing things so very differently between two people in relationship! We approached our daughter’s early birth in such a different way…..I was convinced tragedy beckoned and somehow someway he was optimistic and at times it drove me crazy. I has taken years of distance to recognise that we needed to be a bit like those weather people …where one pops out for rain and one pops out for shine so, mostly, someone somewhere was present in the true sense of the word.

        The uncertainty of what the future holds and the whole experience of having an early baby and health issues creates feelings of ambiguous loss that onky those who have gone through something similar can empathise with. It is the uncertainty and ambiguity of what you have lost…..does that make sense?? Hoping the sun is shining with you today. Love reading your well articulated and really interesting thoughts. Thanks .

  3. Christina E (@Beadzoid)

    Yes, it’s a difficult one and I think those of us who have had children born in such circumstances have all had really stupid things said to us. It’s hard not to be inflamed by it – especially when it’s still raw, or as in your case, you’re living it every day.

    I get angry, still do sometimes. “Oh but you’re so lucky, think of where she came from. You might not have been so lucky. I doubt you would have been a second time – what with your history…” I get that a fair bit. And before I know it I’m feeling attacked or like a failure. But then I think, you know what, it could be that they’re trying to offer comfort (pretty sure I’ve made some ham-fisted attempts in the past) or they could just be speaking thoughtlessly. And the psychological damage from recognising that and holding onto it is just not worth it. BUT, I speak of this as someone whose premature baby had the best outcome possible, so my perspective is perhaps a little easier to arrive at in those circumstances. My failure to have another child though means I’ll never fully heal, I guess.

    For that particular phrase you hate, perhaps you can come up with a stock answer that won’t make those who genuinely didn’t know what to say feel too bad, but will educate them. then hopefully you will be able to move on from the comment without it scarring your day/week.

    It’s so hard though. Some wounds, they never heal fully xx

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      What a wonderful comment, Christina. Thanks so much. I have had variations on the ‘you’re so lucky’ phrase. It’s a difficult one for me because part of me does feel lucky in some ways, but it also diminishes how hard this can be for our kids and us. It remains to be seen, of course, if Mr Boo feels lucky.

      What also struck a chord with me was your comment about some wounds never healing. I think you’re right. But I’m really taken by what you say about us not letting things wound us further. The idea we can, attempt at least, not to let things pile unnecessary hurt on top of old wounds makes absolute sense to me and I really want to try to live like that.

      But I’m so sad about what you say about your ‘failure’ to have another child. I feel like such a failure in some many ways much of the time, but rationally, I know I’m not. I try, I really do. And I KNOW you haven’t failed. O know it’s different because Sissyboo is an older child, but having her first, having her at term, and the fact she is mercifully healthy doesn’t make me feel any differently, I think, about Mr Boo. I long for the day when I don’t feel I’ve failed him and her by having him early.

      But I KNOW you’re not a failure. Your blog, your words, have certainly succeeded in helping me over the past year!

  4. Susanne Remic (@Ghostwritermumm)

    I can relate to this. We’re facing lots of uncertainty at the moment and will not know more until next Friday with our second growth scan. Last week we were told to prepare for delivery at 34 weeks as they fear my placenta is failing and that baby is too small. At 34 weeks baby will be no more than 3lb and there are lots of risks involved with both delivery (which will have to be a 4th c section) and recovery afterwards. And yet on the other hand there is every chance that all is ok and baby is just small, as baby was made to be. So of course I am preparing for the worst, so that I can be prepared and not leave the doctor’s office in a state of shock and panic as I did last week. So of course also people are telling me not to overreact. To take each day as it comes. I find it impossible! How can I not think of all that needs to be done before baby arrives and how it will affect my other children, and how it could affect our lives moving forward? How can I just live in the day, and why are my current feelings not valid in any way??
    Sorry for the essay- your post really spoke to me and now I have a feeling I will be reading your whole blog from start to finish! x x x x x

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Oh lovely. I’m so sorry that I didn’t see this comment straight away. I have been away with Boo picking up some new equipment and without internet access. I am no expert in these things, but my sense is that planned early delivery is much safer than unplanned.

      But I can see that this is no consolation at all and I can sense the sadness, confusion and worry in your comment. And I wish I could say something that would banish those anxieties. I really wish I could.

      I just can’t take each day as it comes. It hasn’t any got easier to do so these past 2 years (or even all 38 of my years). I am a worrier (on the negative side) and (on the plus side) I’m a planner. And being a planner, the flip side of being a worrier, has helped. It really has. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for being this way. Some come it survival mode. I think that’s a helpful way to think about it.

      It sounds like you are getting good care. That’s good. It’s sounds as if medical professionals are planning for different situations. I think that’s good, too

      But what I think I know, because I read your blog, is that you are one heck of a strong lady and I wouldn’t dream of saying to you, oh please don’t worry… just take each day as it comes. But I will say that my sense is that you will ride whatever waves (exhilirating or scarily choppy) that come your way.

      Always here to listen. Thanks for reading. And wishing you and your family plain sailing. xxx

  5. Helene

    “What are days for?
    Days are for living”
    Well you know what ….days aren’t just for living. Days are for loving and living when you can plan with small amount of clarity and assurance, where you have some vision at least, for what the future holds. Ah and there lies the rub. When you have a premature baby who has had a “rough ride” (yet another euphemism) no-one will tell you what the future holds. There’s a good old biblical quote that says “without vision the people perish”
    In organisations people need vision and a sense of where they are headed. Individuals need this too. We need to know with just a small amount of certainty what tomorrow might look like which is why taking a day at a time just won’t wash. The effluxion of a day means that tomorrow is upon us with all that holds, of missed milestones, heady small successes and crushing worries.


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