Maslow taught us about the hierarchy of needs. During chemo, surgery, and recovery, we focused on physiological and safety needs. Yes, we still loved our children, but we loved them in our way, not necessarily the way they needed in order to feel loved and maintain a sense of belonging. Over the past few months we’ve worked toward giving our children the love they need in a way they receive it easiest.
We’re working through the previous 2 years worth of stress, peeling it away one layer at a time, sometimes shredding it as we go because it can be so difficult to remove any one layer. Right now we have 4 children with difficulties receiving love, with unstable attachments, who all lack a secure sense of belonging, and fear taking initiative.
Things are so intense for us. No matter how much we love our children, their needs are so huge that we often find ourselves slipping into several days in a row where they cry for no obvious reason, off and on, all day long.
It would be so much easier if they all had the same needs, but they don’t. They’re all at different developmental stages, and they each need to find security in different ways. Though one thing they all need is me. Yes, Ryan helps, but they’re still battling against fear. Fear that I might die. Fear that cancer might return. Fear that something else could happen.
They need constant reassurance that I am strong and healthy. But they also need us to help them regain their sense of self and purpose.
Ella used to wake up each morning and get everyone breakfast. But the financial strain we were under meant we needed to be strict about who ate what, when, and how much. She stopped getting them breakfast quite a while ago, and hasn’t started again. She also stopped asking to do things. There were so many weeks where every request was met with a negative response.
Right now we really need to support her and all of her ideas. But most importantly we need to sit and listen and show interest in the smallest interactions. Her skipping over to tell me about a dream requires undivided attention, anything else doesn’t convey how important she really is to me. Today I spent almost an hour looking at Pocket Princess comics and doing online quizzes with her. Tomorrow I’ll have her help make Coconut Macaroons with me.
Agatha needs so much love and attention right now, she needs time especially, and praise. An off-hand compliment means more to her than any amount of sitting and listening can ever accomplish. Today she played her violin, and it sounded so good. Of course I told her that, but I pulled out the video of her playing a month ago, and together we clearly saw and heard the difference. She beamed for hours after.
Cordelia needs to feel powerful. Her world has been spinning out of control, and she wants to regain control as much as possible. Yes, it helps that her parents are both here to help keep things at an even keel, but she needs more than that. Before cancer, she had the option to paint when she wanted, or craft, or build. And if I was in the kitchen, she joined me. Cancer changed that. And now it’s time to change it back. I want to see her vibrant smile all the time! Giving her more control over her life will help her accomplish that. Today we read extra stories before her nap,a nd when she woke up I scooped her up and cuddled her while I told her how much I loved her.
Brom, sweet Brom, needs so much right now. Being a toddler’s difficult enough, without also dealing with all of this at the same time. Right now his sleep is all over the place. Some days he needs to stay up and get special 1 on 1 time without any distractions. Tonight we built lego caves for lions and tigers until 10PM because he needed extra attention. Then I rocked him for a while, and finally cuddled in bed until he fell asleep just before 11PM.
It’s impossible to have an #unforgettable childhood if that childhood is spent feeling sad, scared, unworthy, and unloved. Ryan and I are making it our priority to support our children and help them regain their sense of belonging. This is the foundation they’ll carry with them into adulthood. If their foundation isn’t strong and secure, if they do not feel strong and secure, then as adolescents and then as adults they’ll be more likely to face innumerable difficulties. An unforgettable childhood leads to an unforgettable adulthood. One small change a day is all it takes for us to give our children all the love and attention they need and deserve.