“Please don’t ask. Please don’t ask. Please don’t ask.” That’s pretty much what goes through my head every time we talk to our youngest about my husband’s cancer. Cancer and the questions it raises is a constant boogie man under the bed of our life. Like the boogie man. Turning on the light helps. With cancer- it’s the light of truth.
We have work hard to give him the information he needs without flooding him information he doesn’t need or that would just make it harder for him. We mostly manage this by letting him guide the discussion- by answering the questions he asks. Kind of like sex education- we tell him the minimum he needs to know and we answer whatever questions he has. (Sex talks are just a little less nerve wracking than cancer talks. (A little.) Somedays I just want to shout- “Let’s just talk about sex, instead, ok?” Justsayin. Both= hard.
Anyway- He mostly asks things like: “Does dad still have cancer?” Our answer: “Yes.” Can cancer kill people?” Our answer: “Yes. But, not always. Dr’s are getting really good at fighting cancer.” The questions are sometimes random concerns- and sometimes they come up due to TV, other kids, etc… Until someone you know has cancer- you just don’t notice how many times it’s mentioned. EVERYWHERE. From the cash register when they ask you to donate to a cancer fund to an advertisement or news story…. cancer is everywhere. Hearing about it makes kids ask questions. (Well.. it makes us all ask questions… or at least it does me.. but that could just be an effect of ongoing PTCD Post Traumatic Cancer Disorder.) It’s part of the deal.
There are some questions we don’t like to answer. Like: “Could Dad die?” There are some I just don’t want him to ask. Unidentified questions. Questions I try not to allow myself to ask. (Like “what would happen if” Questions.…. FYI? You can pretend you don’t ask those questions… but they’re there. denial or not. They’re there.)
We are committed to telling him (our kids) the truth. To be honest? It would be easier to lie. I’m tempted to tell him: “Dad’s fine. He’ll be fine. There’s no way this could kill him.” SOme part of me thinks that if I lied, I wouldn’t have to deal with his anxiety on top of our own.
Except, kids are not that dumb. What would actually happen if we lied- he’d feel like he can’t talk about what’s happening. He would stop asking questions, because he would’t trust our answers. His anxiety would get worse- not better. We may get a little honeymoon period when we have less anxiety about him because we don’t have to answer the questions…..our relationship would be damaged. Possibly permanently. Let’s face it- Like most parents- I’ve already messed up my kids enough- I don’t need to add this to the list.
If we end up with a worst case scenario…. is THAT the memory or legacy of his relationship that we want him to have? The answer is: No.
The truth is- we just don’t know. So that’s what we tell him. (Well. actually- we do know… .. House M.D. was wrong… everybody doesn’t just lie.. everybody also: dies. So yes. dad will eventually die. We all will. But we don’t know from what, or when.) Since He’s only 11 and hasn’t watched House, he wouldn’t get that. Some of you are too young to get it. Whatever. I’m old. We know this.) But- there’s no point heaping on the poor kid. truth does;t have to be brutalizing. It can be delivered lovingly. (I’ve learned this the hard way… um I tend to bottom line things… which is not always very sensitive…justsayin. Ask my friends. They’ll tell you.)
Here’s what we follow up the hard truth of questions we can’t answer, with: ”We do know that God is in control and loves us. We do know that dad is fighting and we are going to do whatever we can to kill this cancer. We do know dad has great doctors who are doing their best to kill this cancer. We do know that we’re not alone in this fight. We do know we can get through whatever happens- together. ” The things we DO know and trust. Also: the truth.
I remember the days when questions were continuous, annoying but, for the most part, easily answered. (Even if they required a trip to the library or a Google search.) I miss not having all the answers.
However- I refuse to walk a life of faith before my kids that is less than honest. I can’t fill in what God doesn’t answer, I can’t pretend to know it all. I can only depend on my relationship with the one who knows all. So that’s what we’re doing.
Even here. In the middle of the unknown. God is present, and active and working…..even when- maybe even especially when, Mom doesn’t have all the answers.
Dear Lord- I miss not having all the answers. But I also know that I can’t lie to my kid. Please give us wisdom. Please give us courage. Please grant mercy and healing on our family. Bring us closer together as we fight this battle- together with you. Let us walk in truth and trust- even here. I love you lord- be the unexplainable peace I wish for my children. Be the one they turn to when I don’t have the answers. Especially when none of us like the answers we do have. I love you lord and again entrust us all and our future into your care.… even here. Amen.
If you’re a mom who’s struggling about not having all the answers- it’s okay. None of us do. Whether it’s cancer, sickness, world events, tragedy or just plain stuff we don’t know. it’s okay to be honest with our kids. It’s okay to not know. Mom- spelled backwards, forwards, sideways or inside out never ends up God. Just a lil reminder from a mom who’s right there with you. Even here;)