So, when deciding on a parenting technique waaaaay back in the beginning of this whole child rearing experience, Bruce and I decided on a technique based on fierce love, routine, high expectations with the support to reach them and mindfulness. I will, immodestly perhaps, say that we are pretty pleased with these 2 young ones that we have the privilege to parent. There have been many, MANY, difficult times, epic parenting failures, and a constant adjustment of our technique to meet the kids where they were in the moment. But somehow, having this conversation felt bigger, more important, more significant than any that had come before. I usually rely on my gut instinct when dealing with any important subject but on this one, I went to the experts. I did some reading and gleaned a few tips on talking to kids about a parent having cancer. The most important thing I read during my research was that most kids don't know what cancer is or means. When we talk about cancer as adults, we all have a gut emotional reaction. Unless a child has had a loved one with cancer in their life, chances are, there is not a huge significance placed on the word. This was our opportunity to create a paradigm around the word, that we can build on as we continue this journey. So with this thought and using truth, mindfulness and awareness of their developmental levels as guides, we sat down with the kids on Saturday afternoon.
I have to say that this was so much more difficult for Bruce and I than it was for them. That morning as I watched them being cozy on the sofa, watching some cartoons, I really felt as if a certain amount of innocence would be lost during the course of the day. But you know what, Griffin and Lucy are amazing and resilient and took it all in stride. We started by telling them that Papa had cancer, what kind of cancer and that it meant there was a tumor of bad cells growing in his neck. We told them how the doctor was going to use laser beams to kill the bad cells. We told them that Papa may look different or act different but that was temporary and would not effect how much he loves them. We told them that we would always tell them the truth and they could always ask any questions they had. We told them that this is not a secret, that they could talk to their friends, our friends, their teachers, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their dogs....anyone about anything they were feeling or thinking. We told them that we are a team, that we will support each other no matter what, always. We told them that what they could do to support Papa was to be gentle, that once treatment starts his neck will be fragile and there can be no wrestling, jumping on or manhandling of Papa. So this is the point when I had to turn my head away and gulp back the tears. A little background....a few months ago Lucy told Papa that soon she would be too big to be picked up so he better make sure he picked her up at least once a day until then. Every day she runs up to him when he gets home from work, reminding him he hadn't picked her up yet that day. So Bruce had to tell Lucy that there would be times over the course of the next few months that he might not always be able to pick her up....whew, just typing it makes me tear up. They had a few questions that were easily answered and that was that. So, all total the conversation lasted less than 10 minutes and then they wanted to know if they could go outside to play.
They taught me another lesson, sometimes bad things happen but best just to take it in stride and go outside to play.