As you all may recall, from the time of my diagnosis, The Husband and I have been forthright in our communication with all of our children and with specific, developmentally appropriate emphasis on our daughter, a/k/a Finally Five.
Now that I am in the throws of chemo’s pit of despair, Finally Five and I are watching A LOT of Silver Lining movies. Today was the 1940 version of Pinocchio. She howled. Louder and harder than most any of her other movies. So fun!
Before or after watching Silver Lining Movies (“Silvers” as we call them!) is a great time to reiterate that I/we are always available to talk about any and all aspects of FBC with her: anytime, anywhere. A general rule of thumb is to let children initiate conversations; however a little prodding doesn’t hurt.
Here’s how I do it. Every day or so, I ask:
Have you been thinking at all about my breast cancer?
Sometimes, she says “No” but usually, she says “Yes” at which time I follow-up with:
Would you like to talk about it?
Another question to ask is:
How are you feeling about my breast cancer…or my bald head…or my tiredness?
If children are willing to share emotions, allow them to flow. Do not stop the sometimes uncomfortable emotions of a child’s sadness (that includes crying) or anger. These are healthy responses. It is so much better than their holding emotions inside only to be manifested later through other behaviors. As difficult as it may be to witness such emotions in a child, it is important that we do so.
Another option would be to ask:
Do you have any questions that you would like to ask about Mommy’s breast cancer?
If she says “No” to any of the questions, I remind her that:
You can ask me/us anything, anytime.
We don’t want to push – at all. Eventually, the thoughts and emotions WILL come. By allowing children to talk and share emotions on their own terms, we are giving the children a sense of control (in a seemingly uncontrollable situation). When a child is encouraged to have a component of control in a situation, self-esteem and confidence develop. This lesson applies to life in general, not just FBC.
The analogy that comes to mind with this line of thinking and subsequent dialogue is making deposits in a bank. Open and honest communication fosters the greatest ROI’s I could ever hope for (Silver Lining).
For example, last weekend, with a family friend, Finally Five made one of her Princess dolls bald. When asked why, Finally Five said “she’s just as beautiful without hair as she is with”.
An additional ROI came in the form of a visit from one of The Husband’s dear friends (thank goodness the HOTY has a play date to get his mind off of ME!). This is a man who happens to be bald. When I paddled out to say hello, the first thing that Finally Five did was whip off my “Thinking Cap” (the cap that I wear at night to keep my head warm) and say (with pure joy on her face), “Look! Momma’s bald too!”
So, all of those difficult conversations (about diagnosis, surgery and chemo side effects) have produced the best yield possible: a happy and adjusted little girl who, for the time being, has a new normal. How’s that for a gigantic Silver Lining?