I’d say, at a guess, about 75% of our conversations about meals currently revolve around whether or not we are making Mac N Cheese.
By the way, this post is definitely NOT brought to you by Annie’s Homegrown Brand Mac n cheese. However, Annie, gimme a call. We could work out a deal with the Children’s Oncology Group hospitals across the country. Your stuff is awesome!
Leo fixates on Mac n cheese. He trusts it.
I’m told that when your body is recovering from chemo that all food tastes like metal. It happens quite a bit that sitting at a meal, Leo will reach a point where he just can’t eat anymore. He wants to. Food just turns to a bad taste in his mouth. And then he spits it out.
Lemme tell ya, when he pulls that number while halfway through a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you realize that there’s no such thing as a thick enough paper towel to go rescue that moment in time.
But we’re on a one week break from chemo. We go in tomorrow for blood counts and hearing about the next step. It will be the last step of the direct treatment before maintenance begins. This step is called “delayed intensive.” It sounds like someone saying, “You remember when I told you I would tell you when you’re older? Well congratulations, you’re now older.” It sounds like we’re about to go to the real show here. We’re about to see what this chemotherapy thing is all about.
Or maybe it’s just more moment by moment hope built upon directly targeted and studied poison.
Along with Leo’s appetite, my parenting has suffered a little. For real, how on earth do you regulate a child’s eating habits when you don’t know if he’s being bratty or if he’s suffering metal mouth? I give in way more than is ever my custom and Peter and Johanna just look on with this look like, “what in the actual rotten cookie, dad. We neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever (emphasis on the multiple e) get away with table behavior like that.” Johanna actually protested about Leo getting a shake the other day when his pb&j turned into liquid table art. I took her into the other room to have a private talk. I explained to her that the medicine that Leo got in the hospital really hurt his ability to eat and we just wanted to get him strong again. She held her quivering lip solid against her chin and then I reassured her that she was also very special to us. At that she wept into my shoulder and then told me she would love me even when I went to heaven.
Ok, so my parenting hasn’t suffered. It just feels like leg muscles after a ten mile run. It just hurts.
Last night, I drew a line in the sand for Leo. Eat your pb&j or go to bed hungry. It took two timeouts to his room and one father/son huddle. It took the phrase, “Just power through and get it done,” more times than I care to remember. Every time he turned his little face to me turned in agony at the distaste he was experiencing, I just wanted to cook six gallons of Mac n cheese and apologize.
But we both set our faces like stone against the task ahead of us.
“Daddy, aren’t you proud that I worked so hard on eating my sandwich?”
“Yeah, kiddo, I am.” The satisfaction on his face said that he was both fed and proud to have done what was asked. I asked him if he needed anything else. He smiled and told me he was full.
At this point I have to reset everything I thought I knew. It is a careful step by step process to know when he can handle the suffering he has to handle just to get the stuff into him he needs. I have to trust that he has enough strength in him to develop character when I don’t make things easy on him. I can make Mac n cheese for him every day. Or I can help him learn that he’s strong enough to eat a lot of really good food.
I have to learn a whole new way to make friends here. I’ve not lived in a civilian population in a long time. I don’t know how this people makes friends. Our church doesn’t have a weekend men’s group meeting to drink coffee and brag about our kids. My wife doesn’t have a women’s study where she can read the Bible and meet new sisters. There isn’t some sort of slightly lame but still introductory hale and farewell system to bring us in. We have to learn a new way.
When I asked about small groups, it was explained that the church had found that bible study match making had been tried and found lacking in terms of successful group generation and relationship fostering. I can’t say i disagree with the sentiment. I don’t think that works either. But that leaves me at a point where there is no Mac n Cheese solution for building community. We just have to do the work of powering through the lonely times knowing that the Father is watching and His parenting is on point. He knows what He’s doing. He’s making us stronger. He’s sad for the hard times.
But there’s a meal coming. And as much as I love Annie’s, they don’t make steak.