How My 9-Year-Old Is Dealing with My Breast Cancer

I was really looking forward to snuggling with Harrison tonight. Was hopeful that he might open up to me during that quiet alone time as he sometimes does at night. But when I told him it was time to put his reading away, he turned angry and rude. Perhaps he would have anyway, but these days, it’s hard not to think that any emotional outburst is because my babies are carrying around the fact that their mother has breast cancer.

After we both cooled off, I went back into his room and told him that sometimes feelings about my breast cancer might come out in other ways. I asked if there was anything he wanted to say or ask. When he said no, I said I would be checking in with him on occasion and he said with frustration, “I don’t want you to keep bringing it up, that’s too much pressure!” I wanted to shout and to hold him close, all at the same time. Instead, I simply said that I wouldn’t bring it up a lot, but it was important that he didn’t keep everything inside, and so I would be checking in with him now and again.

Harrison’s (also wonderful) teacher approached him at school on Tuesday, just to tell him that she knew, and that she was thinking about him and his family, and that he could talk with her anytime if he wanted.

Then on Saturday, Maggie and Barry (our closest of friends and Harrison’s godparents) took him out for their annual birthday lunch tradition, and when they brought up the topic, he said, “Everyone keeps bringing it up, my mom, Ms. Gerould, Amma!” But when Maggie shared that as a kid, she wrote things on a slip of paper and put it under her mom’s pillow, Harrison said that sounded like a good idea. (When Barry said they could get him a notebook, he said, “But I could just use paper, we have a lot of that around.” Smile. How very practical of him.)

What a slippery line, trying to give my son space without giving him too much; trying to acknowledge his feelings without projecting my own onto him.

What a strange reality, having to deal with any of this at all.

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