Protect or Prepare?

A little bit of controversy for you today…  the next line of the blog is probably going to shock many of you and and possible start a flourish of criticism and complaints, but here we go.

I let my eight and six years old grandchildren handle my medications – and being a secondary cancer patient, there is some beefy stuff in my arsenal.

There.  I said it.  For those of you not already rushing off to call Children’s Services I’d like to explain why and how, and then you can be the judge.  A few weeks ago I blogged about old-fartinalia and how my medicines were getting so unruly I bought an idiot box – um I mean pill box – to stop me killing myself with the wrong medications.

“I remember that,” you might be saying “But hang on…  one day they were too confusing for you to handle but you’ve being letting the kids handle them?”

That’s right, I do.  Each Sunday Jordan and Charli help me take all my tablets out of the packets and fill up my pill box for the week ahead, and each Sunday I choose to be less hands on so that their confidence and skill increases.  Protect or Prepare.  Any one who has ever had a child will no doubt be faced with an endless stream of Protect or Prepare choices.    Sometimes you have to protect (when they are very small and don’t have experience) and sometimes you have to prepare (they have to go to school or learn to cross a road).  Other things are more discretionary and one of the most challenging choices is how to handle serious illnesses and dying.

My approach is to opt on the side of prepare, rather than protect my children and grandchildren from these tricky issues.  My grandkids (as with all little people, are curious and natural learners) and having three of them (4, 6 & 8) living with me at the moment, I’ve had an awful lot of sticky questions.

Jordan (left) teaches Charli (right) how to fill Nonna’s tablet box. Jordan had been filling the box for a few weeks prior to this photo.

We have had impromptu conversations about my mastectomy:
“Whats this Nonna?” asked Charli (6 years)
“That’s my fake boob honey.”
“Oh. Ok.  Why do you need a fake one?”
“Because the cancer made my real one very sick and the Doctor had to cut it off.”
“Oh, and the fake one makes you feel better about yourself?”  Charli surmised. I just had to hug her.  Little Miss I’m just six, had more understanding than a lot of adults.

We have talked about my Cancer being incurable:
“When is Nonna going to get better?” asked Jordan (8 years)
“She’s not, honey.  This type of cancer can be cured.” Said Mel, her Mum.
“So, her medicine are to stop her hurting so much?”
“And slow the Cancer down”.
Once again we were proud of Jordan’s understanding, she only turned 8 last week.

We talk openly about my treatment and medications:
“Nonna, Nonna!  One of your lollipops is on the loose!” said Harry aged (5 next week) before carefully picking up the non-drug end of my empty lozenge pain killer. Harry knows that particular drug can hurt other people and is aware of how to handle one on the loose 🙂

We’ve been fortunate in our house (and in both my grown childrens’ homes) that cleaning products have never been ingested, fire’s never been lit and medicines never taken in mistake of lollies.  I don’t believe it is because we have locked these things away and made them a mysterious taboo – in fact the opposite,  Hot, Sharp and Poison, were some of the first words my kids and now their children learn to understand.  Dangerous and breakable things were displayed safely, but never locked away or removed.  Kidlets were just closely supervised and taught about these things.

Now I have five beautiful grand children, who are being raised in a similar way. These five kidlets are very lucky that they have amazing parents who help them to see the wonder, fun and magic  in the world  as well as prepare them for life in all the forms they might encounter it. Needless to say a little bit of proud mum and Nonna bragging is sneaking into this blog but you know as much as  I adore my own children, the grand kidlets would not be as charming and awesome as they are without their other parent too. I love and appreciate my ‘other’ daughter Sharon, and my ‘other’ son Grant for the way they love, care for  and nurture their children too. I don’t like the term “in-law”  it sounds like a legal document rather than a heart based relationship, so I am lucky enough to have two daughters and two sons who between them are raising really wonderful human beings.

Disclaimer:  I am not professing that my parenting or my kids parenting is so flawless that accidents don’t happen; constant supervision is needed to teach these concepts.  No lock or education can take the place of an interested, involved parent supervising kidlets as they learn and explore the world.

I also think that by letting the kidlets be actively involved in my disease it will help them cope late on.  Medicines, doctors and long periods in bed while I am drowsy are going to become a regular feature of the rest of my life and likely to increase as time goes by.  I hope that exposure and explanations now, will make whatever happens in the future less scary and more normal for them.

To this end I encourage Jordan, Charli and Harry to come up and snuggle me on the weekends, or simple play computer games or watch a movie in bed next to me.  I love having them nearby, they enjoy the one on one time and I am happy that they are so comfortable being near by while I am sick.  I know that down the track there will come a time where I am spending more time in bed and able to do less: in these times I hope the grandies will continue to jump in next to me for a hug, chat, or a story, and that these fun memories will outweigh the not so nice ones.

Kidlets are more in tune, capable and responsible that we give them credit for.  Little hearts and souls can carry very heavy loads with such adult understanding and simple acceptance that it would put most of us to shame.  What kids CAN NOT handle is feeling unsure, excluded or not important enough to be involved.

I have trusted my kids (all 4 of them), and grandkidlets with the truth and the facts and they have responded with empathy, understanding and responsibility.   This, is why I believe in Prepare over Protect wherever possible.

Talking to a five year old about disease and dying is much more refreshing and honest than talking to most adults.  Not that this is a topic of conversation all  or even most of time in our house but on the occasion it arises we do talk, listen and  respond. Perhaps as adults we over-think the big issues, worry to much and forget to be in the moment – genuinely BE present, with the people around us.

Next time you are feeling frustrated and thinking of telling someone to “grow up”  … consider… maybe that’s the problem 🙂

I blame the spoon!

It all began the day I was diagnosed with incurable secondary breast cancer. The very same day our local Foodland supermarket started a promotion that enabled you to collect one stamp for every ten dollars you spent, and in time to exchange those stamps for pieces of a rather nice cutlery set.

“Hmm, a decent cutlery set would be nice” I thought, followed immediately by “Don’t be absurd! I’ll die before I get to use the set. I need to save money for practical things.”

“But I really like this spoon” I countered myself again.

So there and then in aisle three began the battle of the two Vanessas; I call them Fighter Vanessa and Frightened Vanessa.

Fighter Vanessa won this particular battle. I swallowed a bucket of cement powder, decided to live long enough and well enough to collect and use my shiny new cutlery set.

This set came in single settings and sets of six teaspoons, cake forks or parfait spooons. My dad lives in town and I asked him shop in multiples of ten and save the stamps for me. After a few months we had enough to complete a four person setting, so I went and invested in it. Dad continued to collect stamps – just in case 🙂 Anyway, what’s the good of having six settings for parfait and only four places for dinner. Another two place settings were added to the collection. 

Cancer = 0, Vanessa = 1 very nice cutlery set.

But what good are parfait spoons without parfait glasses …