Monday, September 25, 2006
My father was diagnosed with cancer when I was 15 years old. He was treated with radiation therapy and his cancer went into remission. But a few years later, the cancer resurfaced with a vengeance and he died from it at the age of 53.
I wish I could tell you more about how my family -- my four sisters and my mom -- coped with it, but I can't. Because we just didn't talk about it as a family. To this day, among the members in my family, there is limited conversation around my father's illness and death. I think we each have dealt with his cancer individually. Maybe we haven't really dealt with it at all.
Finding out my father had cancer when I was 15 was devastating. Watching him change in appearance and seeing the strength sapped out of him was scary. I remember feeling afraid. I was afraid of him. I wanted to run away from him as much as I wanted to hug him. It was confusing and difficult. I didn't understand what I was feeling -- sometimes angry, sometimes sad. Sometimes, I was even ambivalent. And I never told anyone about the terrifying dreams I had of my father being buried alive and me desperately clawing at the dirt trying to free him.
So when I heard about this new book, Helping Your Kids Cope with Cancer (Hatherleigh Press), written by Peter van Dernoot, I thought of how I might have benefited from something like this when I was a child. If your family is going through a cancer crisis, check this book out. The book contains 20 real-life stories of parents who have been diagnosed with cancer. They share their feelings and hopes in their own words.
In my life, there isn't anything sadder, anything that can instantly move me to tears, as the mention of the death and dying of my father. It is the singlemost devastating event in my life.
Now as a parent, I see the whole cancer thing from a different perspective. If I were diagnosed with cancer, how would I talk to Benjamin and Lauren about it? Maybe that's the question my mother and father couldn't answer when my father was diagnosed with cancer. Maybe that's why they thought it best to shield us from the reality of the disease and my father's condition by not talking about it with us. Maybe they were in denial about the seriousness of my father's condition, so they didn't talk much about it with us. Whatever the reason, I have no doubt that they did the best they knew how.
If you're dealing with cancer or know of someone who is, make a point of reading this book or passing the word along.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Before the race began, all four of us, our four-year-old son Benjamin, my husband Barry, our daughter Lauren, and I, hung about watching everyone get their race packages at the base of the mountain. Among the participants were two little boys (brothers) who are just four and six years old. As soon as I laid eyes on them, I felt a sense of dread fall over me.
"Emma, look how young those boys are!" my husband exclaimed. "Next year, we should get Benjamin going on the Grind and we can all do it as a family."
Great, I thought. Now I have to do the Grind too. For the kids. I agree with my husband: we should expose the kids to as much as we can in terms of activity. I want them to ski, do the Grind, swim... BUT I have come to realize that if I want them to be active in these ways, I should probably be active in those ways too. But I am not. I have no desire to throw myself down the side of a snowy, icy mountain while balancing on two wooden sticks. I don't look forward to repeating my first and only ascent up the Grouse Grind -- it was a nauseating, lung-burning, muscle-cramping experience that brought me to tears only halfway up. And I don't know how to swim -- as soon as the water gets to chest level, I start feeling the sense that I am suffocating.
This makes me sound like a sedentary person. But I like other things that fall in the 'active' category. I like running, playing with the kids in the park or at the beach, and visiting family-friendly events with the kids too. These are the things that fall in my comfort zone.
But I suspect I have to start going beyond my comfort zone now that I'm a parent. I should have realized this when I got pregnant. My first pregnancy, after the first five months, didn't resemble anything close to a comfort zone. And the labour and delivery? Don't get me started. That experience lowered my modesty threshold more than the time someone opened the door to a washroom I was using in Germany -- I was sitting on the toilet, pants down around my ankles and the door swung OUTWARDS so I had no way of slamming the door shut unless I got up off the toilet (half-naked) and stumbled as quickly as possible towards the outward-swinging door to close it. No, the door didn't lock. And apparently, I was supposed to flip over the sign hanging on the outside of the door to indicate "OCCUPIED." Right. If it were in English or if I could read German, I surely would have done that. Sheise!
Guess I have to start walking the talk -- or skiing the ski, climbing the climb, swimming the swim -- if I want my kids to embrace the things I say they should embrace.
Monday, September 18, 2006
The 10- to 15-minute ride was well worth the $2.50 per person admission (kids under two years are free) fee. We went over bridges, saw a windmill, a water tower, the train sheds, stopped for brake checks… There was a little steam and whistle-blowing too, to keep everything authentic.
I loved it, but more importantly, my son and all the other kids loved it too.
The train is also available for parties. I’ll keep that in mind for my son’s birthday next year!
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I called home once a day over three days. And every phone call revealed my husband was getting closer to that appreciation.
Day 1: Husband experiences culture shock!
What hubby said: “I had to go out and buy milk today!”
Yes, when you take care of kids, you have to take care of the mundane as well. Before I left, my husband was focused solely on whether they’d spend a few hours at Science World or the Vancouver Aquarium.
Day 2: Husband notices things that he hadn’t before.
What hubby said: “Your daughter has started throwing temper tantrums.”
Our (I like how he referred to our daughter as my daughter when he’s describing negative behaviour) daughter in fact had been throwing tantrums for months – he just hadn’t noticed because he hadn’t had to handle both kids on his own for an extended period of time before.
Day 3: Husband admits that taking care of the kids is exhausting.
What hubby said: “You know, this is really hard work.”
This was all I wanted to hear. My husband is great in so many ways – he is supportive of my ambitions, he loves to play with the kids, he is forever optimistic – but he lacked a little understanding when it came to the amount of work it is to take care of the kids. Whenever he’s at home with me and the kids, it seems like taking care of the kids is all fun and games. But what he didn’t really realize is that before the fun and games and before he gets home, I make sure the basics are covered – the kitchen shelves are stocked with food, laundry is done – first. And I have to do all of it and take care of the kiddies at the same time.
This trip was not only good for me, it was also great for our marriage. Plus, I think my husband did an outstanding job.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Dominique! This little cutie is the winner of Urbanbaby & Toddler magazine's 2006 cover contest. Congratulations to baby and her very proud parents. See her face on the front cover of the fall issue on the streets now.
We've also printed as many photos as we could of the other children who entered the contest. Pick up a copy of the fall issue to see how difficult a job it was to pick just one winner.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
More importantly, it will be the first time my husband will be responsible for both the kids and the house for more than an afternoon. Need I say more?
Don't get me wrong. My husband is great with the kids when it comes to taking them places to be entertained, but the little things often get overlooked by him: packed snacks to fend off hunger tantrums on the road; extra wipes to clean up messes; enough milk in the fridge for the next day. The other day he asked me, "What am I going to do with them the whole weekend?" What indeed.
When I return I'll give you a full report on how hubby did. Overworked and sometimes underappreciated moms everywhere will want to know all the details.