Last year, I wrote a post about how I hate when people tell you to enjoy “every moment because they grow up so fast.” And since The Cancer, as my worldview has become increasingly unique, I have begun to hate it even more, for two reasons.
First, as I explained in my post last year, it’s absurd to expect moms to enjoy even the shitty moments with their small kids. It’s absurd to tell me to enjoy the moment when I have to tell The Girl that I can’t pick her up because my arm is still too sore after my mastectomy. It’s absurd to tell me to enjoy the moment when The Boy acts out because he isn’t getting enough time with me, because I am too tired from the chemo.
When I actually do have an enjoyable moment with the kids, even those are tainted by The Cancer. I think to myself, “I am so grateful to have this moment, because I know I will feel like shit again soon.” Yep, that’s how fucked up this experience is, that even when you’re happy, there’s this layer of sadness underneath it. The NICU was like that too–even in a victory where The Boy made progress, they were victories because of how shitty the situation was. The good felt so good because of the bad that came before it.
Second, my kids are not growing up fast enough. I don’t mean that I wish my kids would be more worldly or act older than they are, because that would suck. I just mean that even in the best case scenario for my illness, I don’t have as much time left in my life as your average mom. I will be really lucky to see them both graduate from high school, and that has become my dream, the thing I long for more than anything else–to see them both to adulthood. And that feels like it’s so. painfully. far. away. Especially when The Girl STILL is not interested in being fully potty trained. They aren’t growing up so fast–they are growing up so slowly.
I feel like when you have cancer, you’re supposed to be all positive and really get the most out of every day and all that shit. Like, you know, that cancer is supposed to make it so you don’t waste a moment of your life because you don’t know for sure how many moments you have left. For me, that’s just not how cancer makes me feel. I’m not cashing out my bank account and going on that vacation I always dreamed of, or whatever. Because the thing is, it’s not like the rest of life stops when you have cancer. Your kids still pee on the couch and spill finger paint all over the kitchen. Your spouse still gets a cold or throws out his back. There is still a mortgage.
And lots of days, I just don’t even feel like going on that vacation anyway. I just feel like sitting in my recliner and playing 100 games of solitaire, to distract me from The Cancer. Sometimes being distracted is the best I can hope for. Expecting enjoyment from me is just unrealistic right now.
And the thing is, every parent has reasons to not be happy sometimes. Most aren’t as dramatic as cancer, but the everyday grind of life can be pretty darn hard. And in this world of smiling advertisements and Xanax and being grateful every day, we also need to make room for us to feel sad sometimes. It needs to be OK to be sad, not just when you have cancer, but whenever the situation warrants sadness.
“Enjoy every moment” tells people it’s not OK to be sad. But it IS OK. It’s normal, and human, and perfectly OK to be sad sometimes.