As parents we face many challenges. From the moment you know you are expecting a baby, potential mother or father, your world is turned upside down emotionally and physically. Life is never quite the same again.
And thank goodness for that.
Because being a parent is wonderful, tiring, emotional, frustrating, exciting, shocking. The list is endless. It’s like you open this enormous present that never stops giving – let’s face it, good and bad gifts. And even though it sometimes feels like you are on a relentless treadmill that will not stop moving, you wouldn’t step off for anything in the world.
I adore my son. He lights up my world every single day. Admittedly he exasperates me at times but when I hear his little voice shouting for me in a morning or feel his delicate arms reaching around my neck for a snuggle – I know I’m alive. I know I’m loved. And I can’t ever imagine how I survived in this world without him.
As a family at the moment we face difficult times and as he grows older I am starting to wonder how I will ever explain to him what is happening to us. It would be great to point him to my blogs and say, ‘Read that son’ but aside from the obvious fact that he can’t actually read, I know it needs to come from me.
So answers on a postcard please – how do you explain to a three year old happy, smiley, sunshiny soul that his dad is ill? Really ill. That even though he might look normal now, it’s serious. That we have this grim reaper like death sentence hanging over our family.
I’ve spoken to friends and they tell me not to worry. ‘You don’t need to tell him yet,’ they say. I think they are concerned I might sit him down soon, switch off Cbeebies and formally announce it to him. ‘It’s time for a chat son.’
‘Children are so resilient.’
‘He’ll be fine.’
‘You’ll be surprised how well he deals with it.’
Don’t get me wrong, the voices of support are comforting. But he’s not their child. They don’t have to do this. They aren’t the ones who will pick up the pieces. And I am glad for them because nobody should ever have to have this conversation with their kid. It sucks.
I do know in my heart that he will be okay. He is a pretty tough cookie already. But what does worry me. What literally wakes me up at night in a cold sweat is that my sparky little boy wonder with his inquisitive mind is suddenly starting to pick up on the vibe. Little nuggets of information are filtering through into his tiny sponge like brain and I know he knows something is up. Or if he doesn’t know now, it is only a matter of time.
When he starts preschool in January and really begins to talk with his friends he is soon going to realise that visits to the hospital on a Sunday afternoon are not really a normal family event. That sitting in a family room while his parents are talking to serious doctor types whilst he looks at the tropical fish tank doesn’t happen to everybody.
Then the questions will start. I need to be prepared.
What I will tell him is that we are special. That we need to be there for each other. That we have something precious to hold onto called hope. There will be difficult times ahead. We might cry. We might need to have extra cuddles. We might need to hold daddy’s hand. But we will get there. And one day we will walk hand in hand as we love to do along the beach in Lyme Regis and we will breathe again, knowing that we are free. Free of this disease and free to live as we please.
I won’t tell him about the other stuff unless I have to. Because despite everything, despite what could be he is entitled to a childhood. Just like he truly believes in Father Christmas and the power of magic, he has to believe his dad will get through this.
I might need to borrow a sprinkle of his fairy dust too.
This post was also hosted on the Huffington Post UK, Parents.