I wrote this almost two years ago, but I still find myself thinking about it. A lot. I’ve been having versions of this conversation repeatedly as we near the finish line of active therapy, but also just with friends who have young kids growing into their own personalities.
This week I have found myself thinking a lot about what parenting will look like after all of this is done. Molly will be 4, almost 5, when she finishes her therapy. That is old enough to have memories; however, most of this she probably won’t remember. So I keep thinking about the responsibility we have as her parents to make sure she knows what she endured, how it changed us all, how loved and supported we were, how proud we are and continue to be, etc. But that is really overwhelming. Yes, it is a blessing that she won’t remember the most traumatic parts of this. But also, they are an important part of this. It doesn’t feel true or honest to only paint a picture of this sunshine and rainbows victory. But it also doesn’t feel necessary to focus on the darkness. So how do we frame this entire experience in a way that allows her to take ownership of whichever parts of it she wants?
I once heard a quote that was something like, “There are two gifts we should give our children. One is roots and the other is wings.” I love the idea of allowing our children to feel both grounded and free, safe but challenged, steady and brave. I want my kids to know they have roots here with me. That we are connected and supported and sturdy. But I also want them to know they can fly. It is my hope that they feel like they have everything they need to step out and lean into the person they want/choose to become.
Parenting is so tricky. There is such a fine line between making them feel like they can do anything and coddling. The same with setting realistic expectations without making them feel defeated or less than. With Jack parenting has been predominantly emotional. How do we allow him to feel his feelings and support and encourage them without setting him up to be pushed and walked all over. Teaching a child to have boundaries is no easy task. I don’t really know what parenting Molly was just yet. At two we were just really learning who she was and getting into that, and her diagnosis does throw a wrench in our approach and focus. She already has a resilience and trust that can’t be taught, only lived, and I hope she never loses that. But what else? How do I make sure her life isn’t always about cancer and what she overcame? I don’t want to create my expectations for her based off this one chapter. I genuinely want her to be able to choose who she becomes the same way Jack is everyday. But it is harder to give Molly the same freedoms that we were able to give Jack at her age.
Our world is in flux right now. So many changes are happening within our family, community, country, etc. All of those things are factors in how we raise our children. I want them to have an awareness and compassion of and for this world. Cleo Wade said, “We are the builders who are building a world that has never been built before.” I think this is true of us raising our kids but also setting them up to believe this for themselves too.
Again, I’m sitting here wishing I had an answer. How do I know if I’m doing this the right way? How do I know if I’m instilling in them the right “stuff”? How do I know I’m not screwing them up for life? I just keep telling myself that if I am living into the fullest version of myself that I can be and therefore showing them and encouraging them to do the same then that’s really all I can do. So much of parenting and life is out of our control, so giving them a safe space to explore who they want to be, and giving them permission to grow and change their mind is probably all I can hope to do.
Thanks for reading.
With so much love and gratitude,
*Originally published May 2022 and republished August 2023