A little girl in Owen's class at school died of cancer this weekend.
So that's pretty horrifying.
The mother of this child posted once about sitting next to her daughter's bed and thinking, "We will beat this. She will be okay because I will not allow this to happen."
We don't really have that kind of power, do we? But we feel like we do. It is unacceptable, and therefore I will not accept it, and therefore it will not happen. And every parenting magazine and "News at Eleven" and internet article encourages us to feel that way.
Parents Magazine, for example has, as one of it's regular items, "It Happened to Me," - a monthly look at a new unusual way your child's life could be at risk. Eating deodorant. Burning bare feet on black summer asphalt. Choking on a detached key fob. This is aside from the feature articles which have an in-depth look into ways your child's life could be at risk.
What is the PURPOSE of these stories? The message is - always - watch more. Watch better. Watch harder. Do not allow this to happen.
Have you ever read the comments after an article where a child died in a preventable way? It's the parent's fault. They messed up. They should have been watching. I would not allow that to happen. Hidden somewhere in this is also the subversive message that if you allow it to happen, than you deserve it.
We all seem to operating under a logical fallacy that because a particular death was, in retrospect, preventable, that all death is, prospectively, preventable. But a child who is not swimming unsupervised in a pool is playing with a beading kit, or swinging on a swing, or eating a hot dog, or growing a tumor.
I read an article recently, regarding the language that has started to surround cancer - "she beat it," "her parents never gave up," "she's fighting so hard." Notice the creeping linguistic implication that if you are just strong enough, you can control even cancer? That if we "fight" (fight how?), and keep hoping (as if there are parents who couldn't be bothered) than we can tell the very cells in our child's bodies that they must not do this - we will not allow this.
These stories, of these parents who have lost their children, they break our hearts. And I think the way we live with it - the way we get out of the terrified space in our heads - is to tell ourselves that we wouldn't allow it.
And, honestly, you have to cope somehow. I don't think you can be an effective parent if you've tipped the wrong way on the razor edge between gratitude and fear. I'm so grateful for my children. These past few days, I've been so afraid. And I've been giving Owen way too many marshmallows.