Unshelter: Allowing our Kids a View Into Brokenness

“Hey babe. How about a date night? We can make a nice meal. Light some candles. A minor lung procedure?”

What? Who SAYS that?

Who says that? My husband, Dan, said that. He had a “PleurX Drain,” placed in his lungs to help alleviate the fluid caused  by cancer as he lived out his final months at home.

Yup. That was a date night. Me, a nursing school drop out, placing a drain in my husband’s lungs in order to provide some temporary relief.

Kinda weird, I know. But during his four year lung cancer battle, we did everything we could to try to maintain a sense of humor about it all. We also watched every episode of Grey’s Anatomy when he was on Hospice, picking out all the medical inaccuracies.

During his final months, procedures like that, done in the comfort of our own home, were commonplace…and something from which we SHELTERED our kids.

We choose to protect our kids from some harsh realities in life, often, to spare them the pain of the experience. But how often do we miss an opportunity by not offering them some selective seats to brokenness?

We allowed our kids some limited views into marital difficulty, which included a year of separation and a year of reconciliation. Marriage is hard! It gave them a front row seat to grace, to God’s desire and provision for reconciliation.

I am sure they benefited from seeing that. I can tell by how they treat their own relationships.

But when it came to cancer, no. No, no, no. 

That felt like such an unfair card to be dealt as a family, I did everything I could to protect our kids, shield them really, from the cancer journey Dan and I were on after he was diagnosed in 2010 at the age of 42.

Stage four lung cancer…in a non-smoker? Nope. This was too much.

Not once did we bring our kids to a chemo treatment.

Never were they present for procedures, some of them happening right in our home — “date nights” — when Dan was on Hospice.

And when he passed away? Dan opted to protect our children and his family. I was with him. The two of us powered through together as he wriggled out of this life and into Heaven. Death isn’t typically pretty. Cancer isn’t pretty.

“The kids do not need to see any of this,” was his thought.

 Fast forward five years…

Michigan just became the first state in the nation to ban flavored e-cigarettes.

As a mom, I’m pretty angry that there are unhealthy things that are inhaled, which come in flavors like, “Fruit Loops,” and, “Bubble Gum,” being positioned as harmless.

What’s worse, they are being marketed to our kids — our teens and young adults who are too young to remember a time when smoking cigarettes was also thought to be safe, but old enough to make their own choices.

One of my adult children recently confessed to some “healthy” vape juice vaping. Many vaping enthusiasts also boast that vaping marijuana is more flavorful than smoking it. This is probably because vaping is a lot cleaner than burning weed, today it’s easier to find cheap dab pens online than in physical stores .

My offspring, who makes some of the most healthy choices and could probably tell you how many grams of protein he/she has eaten so far today, who is at the gym I’m sure at least four days a week, has fallen for this?

Within days I began to notice the news stories, particularly out of Michigan, of young people being hospitalized from the effects of vaping. Then…a death. If your kid is smoking or vaping, I suggest you try Quit smoking hypnosis.

Why would one of my children, with their bright futures and perfectly healthy lungs, who otherwise makes super healthy choices, choose to inhale anything at all after seeing their Dad die of lung cancer?

Then it occurred to me. They hadn’t really seen it. We did such a great job sheltering them, they just didn’t know how truly awful it was. They know grief; that’s unavoidable. And it’s made them into some of the most wise, tender people I know. But the disease…we sheltered them.

The choice to shelter I believe is from a place of such good intentions. We really want to spare them, especially when life feels incredibly unfair.

I’m not sure what it is you are facing today from which you shield your kids.

Maybe it’s financial difficulty. Problems in a relationship or marriage. Or…worse.

And I don’t have the answers, obviously. But if I could go back and unshelter, just a little, I would. Allowing our children some carefully chosen seats to brokenness is painful, but, I believe, valuable.

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