Using Grown Up Words

Merrick has the opportunity to attend a special camp for kids who have a parent with cancer next week, which has somewhat forced the need to usher him in to using those big kid words about what's really going on around here. He got a good dose of it during our 5K, when mom was clearly called out as a survivor and he heard the words "colon cancer" blared over a bullhorn all morning long.

Now that we've had that talk, I'm looking forward to him hanging out with those big kids that just happen to be walking his same harsh path.

Using code words in conversations about cancer has been our way of life around his overly-perceptive mind (and selectively listening ears). It's in the same realm of me spelling out everything S-A-N-T-A is B-R-I-N-G-I-N-G for C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. We're continually amazed that he will pay attention to a conversation that is completely irrelevant to him from another room, but can't bother to hear us when we are staring directly at him and less than 3 feet away. Most days I feel like I'm already raising a teenager.

The time has come and gone when we referred to "mommy being sick" and having "bad germs in her body" and getting "special medicine," and started talking about all those c-words. Merrick now has a working understanding of cancer, and exactly what is going on inside of my body with the most grown-up of terms.

And as expected, the conversation went something like this:
Me: "You know those germs that are in mommy's lungs? They are called cancer. "
Merrick: "Yeah, I know that already."
Me: "And cancer is a very bad thing because it can make you so sick you die." 
Merrick: "Yeah, but you're really OLD so you're going to die soon anyway."
Me: "I'm not old!"
Merrick: "Yes you are. All you talk about is wrinkles and getting your face fixed at the doctor because it looks so old."
Me: "Leave my sun-damaged face out of this! Off topic!"
Merrick: "OK. Can I have a snack?"
Me: "So you have a good grasp of what's going on then?" 
Merrick: "Yeah. Did you know that Darth Sidious and Palpatine are the same guy? Why haven't you made my snack yet?"
It was only fair to finally bring him into the grown-up loop. It's partly his age, and partly the position he keeps finding himself in as one of my caregivers. Obviously not in the grand and powerful ways of a grown-up, but in the little but important ways of a child.

He has tried to heal me with excessive heart drawings, opened innumerable breakfast bars for Lachlan while I lazed on the couch, and just last week brought my nausea pills and a cup of water to the bathroom while I sat with my head buried in the toilet thanks to a post-treatment migraine.

I think that's when it hit me in the saddest of ways. My 6-year-old just fished around in my purse for a little red bottle of pills and had to see me in one of the worst possible states in the bathroom. No one wants to be seen when they're kneeling before the mighty bowl, awaiting the retching, damning anyone who turns on the lights. Yet he has once again become the one to help mommy in her most dire of needs and once again seen her in a position even my closest friends haven't seen me in since a few select nights in college and possibly in my early 20s and maybe in the parking lot after watching that Van Halen cover band. And it's in those moments that he knows to put someone else's needs before his own - a small feat for any small child.

I'm hopeful for his camp experience. I'm ironically excited that he gets to hang around with kids paddling his same canoe. I know he can't possibly grasp the importance of these peers at the ripe old age of 6, but I think in time he will. I'm sure in his little perceptive heart, he will know he is around his own people and this camp experience will do some good for his little soul.


Carrie S. said...

How did camp go? Even if he doesn't realize it, yet, just giving him the opportunity to speak about his experiences to others is awesome! You are a great mom for being proactive in giving him an outlet!

Sarah DeBord said...

You know, I kept thinking I would do a little post about it, but never got around to it. I also didn't have but a few photos. He LOVED it and I think it was amazing for him to be around kids just like him. "You know mom, like kids that have to help take care of their moms and dads when they're sick."