Overindulgence of the ill child

Overindulgence is a very common behavior of parents of children with cancer.

I bought my daughter everything that I saw that was pretty and lovely I kept thinking that if she died she would die happy because she'd be surrounded by all these beautiful things. Even when I couldn't really afford it, I kept buying. I realize now that I was doing it to make me feel better, not her. She needed cuddling and loving, not clothes and dolls.

Four days into Selah's diagnosis, we were doing anything to keep her happy Our sweet little 4-year-old had turned into a demon child in that short time. Luckily, my very dear friend took me outside into the hallway, pushed me against the wall, and demanded to know exactly what I was doing. I just looked at her and said, "I have no idea." I just didn't want my daughter to die and that was my only focus. She then told me I was giving my daughter no boundaries, no behavior expectations, and she had no respect for anyone who walked into the room. She was so right and I couldn't see it for fear that Selah would die. Through my tears and our hugs, she assured me that the way we were going, if she didn't die from leukemia, we were going to want to kill her because of the monster we were creating. I am still so grateful that she wasn't afraid to tell me what I needed to hear.

One aspect of overindulgence that is quite common is the parents reluctance to teach the sick child life skills. After years of dealing with a physically weak and sometimes emotionally demanding child, parents may forget to expect age-appropriate skills.

I realized that I had formed a habit of treating my child as if she were still young and sick. I was still treating her like a 3-year-old, and she was 7. One day, when I was pouring her juice, I thought, "Why am I doing this? She's 7. She needs to learn to make her own sandwiches and pour her own drinks. She needs to be encouraged to grow up." Boy, it has been hard. But I've stuck to my guns, and made other extended family members do it, too. I want her to grow up to be an independent adult, not a demanding, overgrown kid.

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