Updated: Jul 27, 2020
If you could protect your children from all the heartbreak in the world...you would. Right?
Maybe the world doesn't work that way for a reason. As parents, our first instinct is to hide our kids from anything scary. The magic really happens when we discover how strong and resilient they are.
On October 25, 2019, I was diagnosed with cancer.
Once the shock wore off, the first question I asked myself was, “How am I going to tell Lily (my daughter)?” I was instantly terrified that this experience would traumatize her. The thought of her seeing me tired and sick tore me apart.
As I shared my diagnosis with others, their suggestions bounced around in my head NONSTOP:
"You don't want to scare her...you should let her help you shave your head."
"Try to only throw up when she's not around."
"You don't have to tell her if you don't want to."
"You should hide as much of it from her as you can."
Hide? That was what I felt like doing most of the time, but my daughter was the last person I wanted to hide from. She was 3. I mean...I couldn't even shower or do my business on the toilet without her following me.
Lily and I a few months into my chemo treatment, Photo taken by We Are Family Photography (www.wearefamilyphotography.com)
I know everyone was trying to help me, but how could I possibly hide this from her?
Children have amazing intuition. There is no fooling them. Before the chemo even began, the questions started coming. I had at least 5 appointments before the treatment started, and my daughter started to notice that family members were picking her up from daycare more than usual.
My stepmom watched her during one of my appointments and told Lily that we were at a meeting. Her response was, “It’s dark. People don’t have meetings in the dark. Is she at the doctor’s?”
It might sound silly, but in that moment, I gained clarity. She didn't need to be "protected". She needed to know the truth. Trying to hide it would only make her more confused.
The fact that she was 3 didn't matter. She was my daughter. And as my daughter, she knew something was wrong.
From then on, honesty became our answer. We only discussed the topic if she brought it up or asked a question. We kept our answers as simple as possible.
Simple, and honest. The next question came on our car ride to daycare.
“Mama,” she whispered from her carseat. “Are you sick?” It was time for me to stop hiding. It was time for me to be honest. Part two coming soon...