Am I really doing the right thing by lying to my child about the reality of life?
This question often comes into my mind.
Probably because of what my family has been through due to my leukaemia battle it’s more relevant for us.
We were forced into this dilemma with my daughter when I was very suddenly diagnosed with aggressive leukaemia. We were faced with one of life’s realities - mortality. I found I couldn’t tell her that everything would be okay and not to worry because actually that wasn’t true and I couldn’t hide it. I was to spend months in hospital and was gravely ill. That safety curtain (which we all know is just a façade) protecting her from experiencing loss, hurt and fear was gone forever. It wasn’t easy and took real courage to ruin my child’s rose tinted view of the world. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and to watch her little face as it all sunk in was heartbreaking but I had no choice, I had to prepare her. And now I can’t tell her that my cancer won’t come back because there is a good chance that it might. Then if it does where will that leave her trust and belief in me?
I do wonder though if protecting our children from some things is the right thing, is it really preparing them for life? Are we doing them any favours in the long run? Isn’t part of being a parent giving your child life skills and preparing them for what might lie ahead? I’m not talking about totally destroying their innocence and happiness but maybe just being more honest.
My daughter has a very inquisitive mind and has asked some very unnerving questions. Even though I choose my words carefully I find myself being more honest with her because I don’t want her to spend years, like I did, searching for the perfect life that just doesn’t exist. I feel that rather than protecting her from the reality I should be telling her that life is full of challenges and heartbreak, as well as breathtaking experiences and good times. I feel that as long as I make it clear that there are many amazing things in life as well as times when you question the meaning of it she will believe that when something bad happens she will get through it and perhaps see it as a positive life lesson.
As a child I grew up believing in fairy tales, often writing my own stories, assuming that when you became an adult you had the career you wanted, found love, got married, had a family and boom... life sorted! And yes of course all the tough times (once I came out of the other side) made me more resilient but could some of these situations have been avoided?
When in my mid 20′s, finding the sudden realities of life really tough, I remember thinking, ‘why didn’t anyone tell me what life was really like?’ At times I wished my parents had been more honest or perhaps more open at least. Some of the realities of life came as a real shock to me and what hit me mostly was feeling desperately let down by life.
My parents were very good at hiding their struggles and I have since learnt that there were many; the burden of having to make ends meet along with the everyday challenges of life in general. Obviously as a child you see things from a very childish point of view and part of being a grown up is understanding and appreciating what your parents did. I don’t think it was a conscious decision on their part but just a natural instinct. When I look back I was totally unaware of any difficulties.
For my child I want to be her sanctuary, where she can seek refuge and have the confidence to talk openly about her fears. If she has this shelter to retreat to she will always find a way to get through. I want to her to grow up with as happy a life as possible but with her eyes wide open and well equipped to cope with the challenges she will face. I always make sure she knows she is loved even when I am cross with her - this is so important to me above everything.
These are my just my thoughts and I’m not claiming to be some sort of parenting guru, I’m just a mother doing her best and like the rest of us winging it a lot of the time.