I have no idea what is the “right” way to talk to your kids about cancer. I’m sure there are a lot of people who think I’m doing it wrong. I really don’t give a shit, though. One thing about The Cancer is I really can’t bother giving a shit what anyone thinks about the way I’m parenting. I mean, I didn’t care much before, but now? I really don’t have the energy to spend on that crap anymore.
So, the kids. Lots of folks have asked me how they’re doing with this whole cancer thing, and how we talk to them about it. And what I say is that we’re oversharers, so we just talk about it. That’s how our family rolls with everything, so it would be weird NOT to talk about The Cancer. And that’s why we told The Boy the day I got the first biopsy results. We picked him up from school, and as we drove home, I said, “I have something important to talk to you about. Have you heard of cancer? Do you know what it is?” He had heard of it but didn’t really understand what it is, so I explained to him that it’s a sickness, that it’s not catching but that it’s kind of a big-deal sickness, and that I just found out I have it, and that it’s in my breast. He asked if I was going to die, and I told him no, that I’m going to beat up that cancer, and he said, “I’m going to punch it in its private parts. Does it have private parts?” And then he said, “I’m hungry, can we get something to eat?”
The next morning before school started, we had our evaluation meeting (he qualified for special ed for his ADHD–they’re doing all his services in the regular classroom and he’s making AMAZING progress already) so we told his teacher and the school psych about The Cancer. So, when he went to class that morning, he told his teacher about The Cancer, and she asked if he wanted to tell the class about it. And we’re oversharers, so of course he did. The Boy got up in front of the class and said “My mom has cancer” and his teacher explained to them what cancer is, and then he took questions. When he came home, he told us about it and said “I wish they had asked more questions.” And now everywhere he goes, The Boy introduces me by saying “That’s my mom, she has cancer.”
What I’m saying is, The Boy is not bottling anything. He talks about The Cancer whenever he feels like. In fact, we’ve had to explain that other people might feel uncomfortable talking about The Cancer, even though we talk about everything in our family. He’s confused by that, like, he just doesn’t understand why people wouldn’t want to talk about whatever is on their mind, even if it’s scary or whatever.
As for The Girl, she’s small enough still to not really understand what cancer is. We’ve explained that I’ve got a sickness and that the medicine makes me tired and makes my hair fall out, which is why Daddy shaved my head. (We made sure both the kids were there for the shaving, because I knew they’d be less weirded out than if I just came home one day without hair.) But, she doesn’t seem upset by any of this. Both The Girl and The Boy seem to give more hugs lately, and enjoy a cuddle more, but otherwise? They seem about the same as they always are.
I guess what I’m saying is, kids bounce. It’s not easy for them anymore than it’s easy for me, but they’re tougher than we think they are.