Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pretty Much Making This Up As I Go

On Friday the weather was totally gorgeous here, and I sat out in the backyard and read my Country Living while Laura worked on her clubhouse. The clubhouse is slowly being painted with craft paint, and is having inspirational slogans Sharpie'd on its walls. Slogans like, "Save the pandas!" It also has a chandelier made of camellia branches.


So I hadn't yet told Laura about all this breast cancer stuff, but I thought it was time to fill her in. I have a surgery date now (March 30) and I hadn't wanted to bring it up before there was a definite plan to tell her. I had seen a book at the bookstore on "how to talk to your kids about your illness," but I thought, "I don't have time to read a book about this. I know this girl and I'm going to wing it." Which is pretty much what I've been doing all nine years of her life.

I knew that I didn't want to do it as a big family meeting scene. I wanted it to be more casual, just a normal, low-key mother-daughter thing. So I called her over from her clubhouse and she sat on my lap. Which is funny because she is huge.

I told her that I'd been to the doctor a couple of times lately and that I had a tumor in my breast that had to be taken out. I didn't use the 'c' word, she has no experience with that term. I told her that if it weren't taken out, it would just keep growing and make me sick. She said, "Is that serious or is it just a normal thing?" I told her that it definitely wasn't normal and that it had to be fixed. Then I told her pretty much exactly what the surgery was and the reconstruction and everything. She said that it was like when you have your leg amputated and get an artificial leg, and I said yes.

It was hard to steer a course between not scaring her and misleading her into thinking it was trivial. I told her that I hoped the surgery would completely fix the problem and that I wouldn't have to do anything else afterwards, like get more medicine, but that I didn't know, and sometimes people had to do that.

Her only frame of reference for surgery is an emergency bowel resection her grandma had, so she said, "Remember Grandma's surgery, that was way more serious, right?" I said yes, in a way, because that had been an emergency and Grandma had been in the hospital for a week, and that operation was much harder to recover from than this one would be. I didn't know how to go into Grandma's surgery being a total fix, versus the uncertainty of my situation, so I just left it where it was.

I told her that the hardest part for her and Hank might be when I was home and not feeling good after the operation, but I laid it on thick with reassurances that lots of people would be around helping us with everything. She did not seem overly troubled or upset.

She asked me, "Are you going to tell Hank about this?" I said, "What do you think I should tell him?" She said that telling him about it would "make him freak out" and that I shouldn't tell him about it until I was home and the surgery was over. I said I didn't think that would work, but that I would wait until the night before and then tell him I'd be at the doctor's the next day, and that Grandma and Papa would take care of him until I got back. We agreed that three year-olds don't have enough grasp of time for me to bring it up way in advance.

Then Matt stepped out on the back porch and Laura said to him, "I know." So she did get that what I was telling her was important, and I think she even felt privileged to be in on the information. I think the whole talk went great, and she hasn't seemed at all worried since then.

Other stuff about this weekend: shortly after that scene in the backyard, I got a text from Normal Neighbor that said, "I'm having drinks on my back deck with Kathy and Cathy, do you want to come over?" I was like, oh honey I am so on my way. It was just such a mild, sunny day that everyone wanted to be outside. I walked around the corner carrying my phone and four Corona lights in my hands. It was a parade of class. Then I just walked around her house and went up to the back. Back door friends are special and all. Kathy and Cathy are two other neighbors I know slightly. After they got filled in on my boob situation, the K(C)athies dished up some tennis league gossip, including stories of all the girls they knew who had left their husbands for other women. Good happy hour.

Yesterday, Matt and I took the kids up to the tennis courts and hit balls for an hour or so. Then I took Laura to see Alice in Wonderland, which I thought was just okay. I don't know if it was boring or if I was just really tired, but I fell asleep for part of it. Definitely the only time in my life I've fallen asleep while wearing 3D glasses.

Today it is raining, and Matt cleaned out the fridge and washed all the shelves. He is my white knight. I swept and mopped the wood floors, because Fabienne just does this "squirt Murphy's Oil soap and then damp mop" thing and my needs for shiny floors are not being met. I mean, that's fine for a routine mopping, but at a certain point, there is dirt on the floor that is just being pushed around by that half-assery. Something needs to be done to transfer the dirt from the floor to another receptacle. Something involving a real mop and a bucket of hot water.

My mom and dad are arriving tonight to help with the kids tomorrow, and I have a meeting with a plastic surgeon. Matt has met all of my tentative murmurings about also having a chin tuck or other cosmetic improvements with stony silence. Men.


Jenni said...

Oh, that Laura is such a big girl, isn't she? I was worrying and worrying about your telling her - I was so nervous about how she'd react - and I think you handled it just perfectly. I'm really proud of you both.

Good luck tomorrow, and I'm so glad the surgery has been scheduled and is sooner rather than later.

Amy said...

I wish I could wing anything in life half as well as you wung that, girl. And yeah, that she "gets" that she's in the know means she's grasped what you didn't exactly tell her.

Half-assery, indeed. Clean, not swab, people. That, and the demure little shake of the bath rugs onto the floor to be swept up. Flap those things out the back door for all they're worth. And then give em a smack or two on the rail.


Sjn said...

my thoughts and prayers are with you every day. Thank God for supportive parents and good back door friends!

Carrie said...

What a beautiful moment, when she tells her dad, "I know." I don't know this kid but I am proud of her. And isn't it amazing that Bad Things can take you to a moment like that? Not like, Aren't you glad you have cancer now that you got to have that great moment of mother/daughter intimacy? But still.

Mad Woman said...

I'm really sorry but reading about your conversation with Laura had me blubbering like a baby. I can't imagine having to sit with my daughter and have a talk like that. You did really well and it sounds like she did too. It's amazing the information that kids can handle with some ease isn't it?

As for your floors, if you're looking for something to fill in some time ;-) you're more than welcome to fly to NZ and wash mine. I HATE doing my floors.

Elizabeth said...

Whoa! That IS good tennis gossip!

Has Laura added "Dear World, We're back, Love USA" to her clubhouse yet? Definitely necessary.

And I too got a little teary-eyed reading your talk with Laura; your grace and composure in this situation is an encouragement to her, I'm certain. We'll keep praying, especially on the 30th.

Veronica said...

Wow, I think you handled that really well--sounds like not only is she not too worried, she also feels privileged that she is "in" on the info and that she got to help figure out how to bring Hank into the loop. What a brave, smart girl you are raising.

poz said...

As a manly man, even I will admit to a tightening of the throat and suddenly damp eye when I read this amazing discussion with Laura.

(I haven't mentioned this before, but the photos you post are always excellent.)

Maggie said...

You are such an incredible mother. I wish I had your composure and quick thinking skills. Can I please be you when I grow up??? Love you and will be in touch with you and your mom before and on the 30th.

Beth said...

I'm officially adding "half-assery" to my vocabulary. Will someone please contact the OED people?

Amazingly good convo with Laura-- you've got the instincts, girl, and it sounds like *she* does, too. Perfectly executed. And beautifully re-told, I might add.

I'm quite envious of the neighborhoody sitch y'all have down there in your neck of the woods-- to have back door friends, to whose house you may saunter with an armful of Coronas and your cell; it sounds like Heaven. Here in LA, it's all driving, all the time. So you gotta plan it and all, and then many of your friends live 25 minutes away and can't bear to face freeway traffic, so, it's not so easy. Can I come live with you?

Cassie said...

Score one for making it up as you go along... sounds like it went beautifully. And I love that Laura had input about how and when Hank should find out what's happening.

I am thinking of you every day, girl. XOXO

Marie said...

What a Mom you are! I have to say that you grew up with the best possible example, but aced that one!
We have the Methodists, Lutherans,
Baptist, and Catholics in several
states praying for you!
Evan and I love you dearly! XOXOXOXO

Rebekah said...

Thank you for sharing this whole situation with us, your readers and friends. I liked how you talked with Laura about all this. You're one of my few friends with a child older than mine, and I need more peers I can copy in a good parenting way. Three cheers for you and for Matt. He was always a good egg.

Pamela said...

i am totally familiar with half-assery style cleaning. it's the kind i do.

and that was one seriously fab heart-to-heart you had with your girl.

praying for you!

Amy said...

We got a steam mop, and that is now the only kind of mopping that really happens around here. It seems to do the job.

As for Laura, I don't think that could've gone any better! You know her so well and presented it in just the way she needed. Champions, both of you.

I chuckled at the "Save the pandas!" My fave Laura slogans are on all the Peace shirts she gets from Justice. That girl is a true humanitarian, committed to the cause.

Jane said...

You've raised a wonderful, strong, big-hearted girl. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Michele R said...

I love hearing your stories of your kids. You have two of the most amazing ones. And yeah to our men who use mops.
I hope your meeting goes well tomorrow.

Amanda said...

Loved that conversation with your daughter. You handled that with amazing composure and tenderness as you seem to be handling this whole affair.
Steam mop - I bought one at the local fair, you know alongside the contraptions to clean both sides of the window at last - I love it, love the evidence of dirt being transferred to the pad. I'm absurdly easily pleased. I'd come and mop your floors if I lived closer.

Dave said...

Becky, you continue to kick ass. On all fronts. Looking forward to seeing you on Friday.

The Dental Maven said...

It seems both you and Laura handled that talk really well. Glad your surgery date is set and you can move on and get rid of this thing. We're all pulling for you, Girl. Hope it goes well today.

Michele said...

That's the thing about winging it, it usually works out better than planning it. That's my story anyway. Laura and you are an amazing team.

I want to come to your next neighbor happy hour. You can't buy gossip like that.

Boob work, chin and tummy tucks aren't a packaged deal? What's up with that?

mbaumbick said...

I was thinking about you and Laura all weekend, knowing that that conversation was happening at some point. Sounds like it went well...for both of you. Great job and let me know how it goes today. BTW, I loved your description of your trip to the neighbors. I know it's true too, because I've seen you do it!

Sara said...

That Laura is some kind of special girl.
And Matt is indeed the white knight.
Very glad your appt. is soon. xo

Keely said...

Wait, the pandas need saving?

The seat of those pants that you're flying by is doing pretty damn well. Must be all the shredding. You have an awesome kid, there - probably because you're an awesome person.

gretchen said...

Sounds like you handled it perfectly, just as I'd have expected. Laura is a great girl!

And that clubhouse she's working on absolutely rocks!

kathy said...

I'm glad you shared with Laura. She is such a mature young lady, and I know it will help her deal with any uncertainties that may come up over the next few weeks.
We continue to keep you in our prayers. Your parents will be keeping us in the loop as you go through surgery, and the recovery process.
We can't say it enough. We love you and your special family.

The Messy Mom said...

I had a little brother that had Leukemia when I was Laura's age and I remember a lot of those kind of talks as he was in and out of hospital. It sounds like you both handled it so well. You are an amazing mother!

A Day That is Dessert said...

You did such a good job with Laura, Becky - I'm really impressed with both of you.

Eager to hear how it goes with the surgeon. You're in my thoughts!

Fantastic Forrest said...

I'm so glad you won't have to wait long for the surgery. But forget about a chin tuck. You are gorgeous as is.

Your talk with Laura was absolutely perfect. That girl is certainly her mother's daughter. Matt is awesome. And I am deeply jealous of the K(C)athies because they got to have Coronas with you.