Friday, December 5, 2014

Is All of This Perfectly Normal?

This last week has tested every bit of my patience with Quinn, and my patience has failed that test on more than one occasion. I have yelled (granted, there was either a hot glue gun or a dog lunging after our cat involved). I have taken toys away, placing them in a pile on our kitchen counter so Quinn could see exactly how many times he didn't listen to me that day. I have threatened to call Santa.

The thing is, I think I know what's going on. First my mom came to visit. Then my dad and his new wife were here visiting for a week over Thanksgiving, a week in which Quinn hardly went to preschool and was doted on and played with fairly nonstop ten to twelve hours a day. Then they left.

I do my best to play and play and play, but I also have meals to cook, laundry to fold, and a new dog to try to befriend to our cranky, panicky cat. I am no match for Grandma Sue or Grandpa and YaYa. Quinn has reacted pretty much the way he does when Chris leaves for Africa: petulant and ornery and just sort of perfectly three, a phase that typically lasts about a week post-departure.

Lately, if Chris or I ask Quinn to stop doing anything, his inevitable response starts with: "But I was just..." to the point where I told him that the word "just" wasn't allowed in our house any more. I will put a toy on the counter, so help me god.

There's a chance this all has nothing to do with our company leaving, and could just be Quinn picking up on our collective insanity this week -- the seemingly natural craze that comes with this time of year, with ordering holiday cards and shopping for gifts and Chris finishing up his semester at ASU and decorating and holiday parties and all of the STUFF. Not to mention the damn elf on the damn shelf. Also, we added a family member this week. It's a little nutso around here.

I've been waiting for my sweet boy (the one who isn't quite so cantankerous) to make a full-time appearance again. Then last night, he did, and it left me sobbing in bed next to him. We were lying down, talking about our day, our week, and how we'd both like to be better, to do better. I told him about all the things he does to make me proud: introducing himself ("I'm Quinn James Campisano, Quinn James Campisano, Quinn James Campisano...") to a new friend at swimming, being exceptionally sweet with our pets, and cleaning up his toys when it's time for dinner.

He asked to cuddle, then changed the subject somewhat abruptly.

"Mom, when I get older, I don't want to die."

"Honey, you don't have to worry about that for a long, long time." I stroked his hair off his forehead. After several identical interactions over the last week, though, I've started wondering if this is something we need to talk about more deeply. Where is this fear coming from?

Photo c/o Jennifer Bowen Photography

Is this normal 3-year-old stuff? I tried to explain that that's the beauty of this life, that we should enjoy it while we're here because eventually (a long, long time from now, we hope), we all have to stop living. 

"But dying means you're no longer here, and I don't want to go anywhere else," he insisted.

"Some people believe that when you die, you're reunited with your loved ones who've died before you." I tried.

"But I love you and daddy and Loki and Luna! The people in THIS house. I WANT TO STAY HERE." He was getting worked up.

"Honey, we're here right now, and that's what matters, right?" I hugged him a little tighter.

He continued. "When you die, what if we go different places? I don't want you to go anywhere. I don't want you to go away from me." And then I lost it. Usually I can hold back my tears in front of him, but not after that. The tears could not stop themselves. "Mommy, don't cry," he told me. 

I took a deep breath and pulled myself together. "Let's just stay here together as a family for as long as we can, okay buddy?" This seemed to satisfy him and alleviate his worries -- for last night, anyway. 

I did not know parenting was going to be this challenging. These conversations are not getting any easier. Have you talked to your children about death? Am I over-thinking this because of my own situation? Has cancer ruined my perspective? Is all of this perfectly normal? 


  1. It's normal and it's hard. I think you were brilliant to say, "Let's just stay here together as a family for as long as we can, okay buddy?" All any of us has is the present moment.

    1. Thanks for the support, Misty. I am so happy to know you.

  2. Don't worry Jen - it is totally normal. When my youngest daughter (now aged 12) was around 4, she went around telling everyone "eventually, you're all going to die". And I mean EVERYONE. Her classmates, teachers, aunts, grandparents - absolutely everyone. There weren't any deaths in her world, it was just a concept she was exploring (along with the discovery that boys have penises. My favorite was when she said to her uncle "Uncle Dave, you have a penis and you are going to die.") Just keep doing what you're doing, stay matter of fact, and know that a new obsessive fact will come along. Good luck!

    1. This made my day! Children are hilarious. Thank you for the much-needed dose of perspective.

  3. Hi jen,
    I regularly come to your blog to find out what is happening in your life. I just had a unilateral mastectomy for grade 2 breast cancer. I also have a 25 months old toddler and your posts about Quinn always bring tears to my eyes. Strength to both of us and to all mothers in smilar situation!

    1. Thanks for visiting, and good luck to you as you recover from surgery!

  4. This made me cry. I don't have any kids, but I want one badly. And I have thought about me not being here for him and wonder if I should consider having kids. I was dx at the age of 32, and still on remission. I pictured myself having that same conversation with my child, if I had one, and I wouldn't be able to hold it together. It sounds so hard to do when you fear for your life. It's also harder with kids because their perspectives are so different and often they don't understand. I think it's OK to have these conversations though. It might be hard at first, but it's OK to view it as something "natural" rather than a horrific subject. I hope things that gotten better with your handsome boy. You hang in there. As I always tell myself, one day at a time is how we do it.