Parenting Through Cancer: Coping with Emotions
“Bedtime. Go grab your toothbrush from the suitcase, okay?”
“Why?” my eight-year-old asks.
“It’s late, and we all need to sleep. Please go brush your teeth and get ready for bed,” I reply, distracted as I pack the last few things for my extended hospital stay after my surgery in the morning.
“Why?” her determined voice questions.
“We need to get ready for bed, sweetie,” I answer, still not glancing in her direction as I mentally go through my checklist to make sure I’ve packed everything I’ll need.
“Why?” she persists, her volume rising.
My attention is finally caught by her challenging tone, and I turn to look at her.
Belligerent eyes stare me down.
I take a deep breath to get through my first knee-jerk, stress reaction, then consciously slow my breathing, quiet my thoughts, and focus fully on my strong-spirited little girl who is clearly in contrary mode.
She shifts, uncomfortable, then shoots, “Why?”
I soften my gaze and offer a slight smile.
“Why?” she snaps again, a bit more quietly.
I hold her gaze calmly, knowing she needs space and time to work through her feelings before she’ll be able to share them.
She turns away, her small shoulders stiff as she sits on the side of the bed, her back to me.
A minute passes, then two. Then, in a soft voice, “I don’t want you to go.”
“I know,” I say quietly.
I wait again.
Moments pass in silence, then she whispers, “I’m scared.”
“I know, baby. I am, too,” I reply, struggling to hold back my own tears as I hear hers start.
And I wait.
Soon a small body crashes into me and my girl wraps her arms around me tightly. I hold her close, my heart breaking at the pain and fear I wish she never had to feel. After a few moments she slips away and brushes her teeth, then settles quietly into bed.
I lay awake throughout the night, listening to the even breathing of my sleeping eight-year-old nearby and cuddling my tiny cosleeper close and praying desperately for all of my children as I head into the unknown.
Hours later, I slip out of bed and kiss each sleeping child, then leave for an early hospital check-in. My heart stays behind with my feisty sweet girl and my little cosleeper and each one of my six incredibly unique and wonderfully kind-hearted children. This is so hard. Cancer sucks.
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.