Sunday, November 14, 2010

Parenting through cancer

It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. ~Joyce Maynard
Or reach for the Tylenol.

This one has been bubbling around in the chemical cauldron of my brain for a bit now. Basically, how is it going parenting through cancer.  There are so many parts to this equation, and it is often feels like you're a step or two behind, as the formulas change, and you are never sure. Parenting my kids if Job 1 for me. I work "out there", but this is my job. We have been through a lot and I am very protective of them and ensuring that whatever "normal" is prevails. 

Undisputed facts (cancer, pain, crying), overwhelming emotion (anger, sadness, fear, worry), you feel awful a lot and an awful lot of other things too.

How best to explain coach, prepare? How best to recalibrate and find the new normal? When not stupefied by medication and sheer physical exhaustion, an occasional swirling vortex of thoughts, about homework, teeth brushing, matching socks, when to cut my hair off so it is not such a trauma for Naomi, Christmas, moves in. I am in a semi-debilitated state. I cannot physically accomplish what I used to. It sucks. My kids cannot climb on me like a jungle gym - which I am sure is frowned upon anyway as appropriate, but I love it  - especially the run from across the room and flying leap - that one is fun. But now a memory of the past. Bodies present tense if the approach is too fast - don't jump on mummy!!

We have tried to clear the slate so the basics are focused on - me getting well, the kids having a normal that is sustainable. This being the key. Not too many pets to look after (with apologies to the cavies); not too many events to manage (apologies to Integra), nor too many different foods introduced into the diet. No dentist visits, no support groups, all cleared off. Our life exists for us now here, right now, in this place. Naomi is th only one who willingly leaves to play - but even then.....she at 6 can verbalize that she will miss me, even if it is doing something super fun.

Also, the little bodies have acquired new maladies....Owen now suffers from an almost daily and debilitating headache. Every time I explain that I have a head ache and need to rest - the refrain is "Well now you know how I feel". His appetite is ok though, which has always been the proverbial canary in the coal mine for us. Naomi has leg pains which requires bandaging. She limps. We are all aware of the font from which these ailments come - I hurt too - give me care - bind me up to keep the good stuff in- I need attention.

Yesterday was a new experience for me of  - well, I don't know what. Lowness. Guilt.  I was flying solo for a few hours with the kids, and to be honest, I was afraid. It's been a while, and it seemed cacophonous. Have they always both talked to me at the same time, and cut such a noisy swath through the house? After being asked what appeared to me outrageous questions - Mummy, where are the glue sticks? Mummy, come see my...on this site...Can you help me find the TVOkids website? Can I please have more cheesy crackers? - I lost it, and even though Daddy was napping, I asked Owen to inform him that now might not be a good time for nap.....since the lid was bubbling precariously on the mummy pot.

However some bug has taken hold of the poor wee lamb and I have not seen nor heard from Michael since then  - so I wish him a speedy recovery!!!!  So back to flying solo for a sec.  I realized that as ever, as you look into their faces - full of questioning, a bit of fear?  they are looking at me to direct the boat back to calm waters.

Stupidly, yesterday was the day I actually timed their computer time to one hour each (don't ask) - and both fell right in line. They both figured out it could be spread over the day in 20 minute intervals. Good math. Then when done, wandered around the house saying - I am bored, there is nothing to do-  etc etc. you know the drill. Mea culpa, something burst inside my head. The air went blue as I explained to them Santa could not possibly visit this house since there were already too many fuckin toys all over the place which they never play with anyway, and if they wanted Santa to actually visit, then go down to the actual play room created for them and their thousands of dollars worth of toys and play with the goddam things....and clean it up while you're at it!!

Silence for a bit. Not exactly calm waters. Sheepish children playing - and providing object-examples - See mum, I am playing with my lego. See mum, I am playing wit my polly pockets.....and so it goes. Not quite the desired effect. But you work with what you've got/created.

Then the request that calmed all waters. Mum, can we read together? A big pink cuddly quilt, a Walter Wick book, a fire, and calm resumes. Hard to yell when the soft squirmy body smells like soap, and with a worried look asks if this is the right side to cuddle on....Then, calmer still, as Owen retrieves and dispenses my pain meds for me, and watches over me as I take them and a peck on the forehead from Nurse Owen. Then the "mail" arrived from Naomi - a picture of mummy  - very sad sitting under a cloud, with the words in the cloud "I love you mummy"; next one a picture of Naomi yellling "I love you to the moon" - delivered via pink baby stroller.

Role reversal. Caring for the carer. Strange. Lovely. Mildly guilt-inducing (ok, I am a former Catholic). We three, working through it - and finding that new normal.

 So I leave it to the inimitably Erma Bombeck,  Grand Dame of pithy quotes on all things domestic to sum up.

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together. ~Erma Bombeck

xo KO


Anonymous said...

Love love love it. But, selfishly, wish I could have been there too. You are the greatest Mum (and you have the almost-greatest kids, after mine of course LOL). Lots of Love to you all XXXX V

Anonymous said...

Kate, lovely how you describe this, even though it's difficult at the same time. You must go easy on yourself now of all times, you are a wonderful mom but the pressure is tight right now. Dancing and reading are good. Big hugs.