I’ve been really into reading young adult fiction lately – less taxing on my brain after a long day of writing. I love recalling the mindset of my middle and early high school years when everything around me was either cool or completely embarrassing. It was a pretty narrow focus, one that cracked and splintered when anything more complex (like a family member’s cancer) arrived on the scene.
When tough times were going on around me, I saw straight though adults chumming up to me with pop-psychology, didactic books, and sentimental moments. All they elicited were eye rolls and a contemptuous desire to run out of the room screaming. I could handle “learning moments” in the form of an After School Special, but that was about it.
That’s why I adore and highly recommend a slender new book Brushing Mom’s Hair, by Andrea Cheng. A book of 52 short poem/vignettes about a 14-year-old whose mom has cancer, there’s no room for the sappy crap adults want kids to learn and feel. It reads like it was written by a 14-year-old. She makes computer graphs charting her mom’s fluid intake, is stubborn, bratty, and sweet, obsessed with ballet, first kisses, and her weight. Supposedly for teens, I think it’s a better match for middle school girls. (I wasn’t reading Sweet Valley High in high school; I cared most about the insights of teenagers when I was in middle school.)
Nieces, nephews, students you are teaching, your own children, younger siblings. Lots of young adult cancer patients talk to me about how kids in their lives respond to their cancer. How have kids in your life responded to your cancer? Eye rolling? Openness? Any tips for what works, what doesn’t when dealing with cancer and kids?
P.S. When I was a sophmore at Columbia University, I baby sat for Francine Pascal’s kids… Guess what – Fancine was actually a 30-something guy!