Some conversations hit you right in the feels. One I had with Olive tonight at bedtime did just that. It was a lot like one I have had previously with her, and I can't help wonder if I am reacting the right way. It went a little something like this:
I kissed the big satellite on her arm and said, "I love kissing your nevus. It's so soft."
She pulled her arm away and said, "it is not. It's spiky!"
Me: "Well I like it, and I think it's soft."
Olive: "I don't like it and I want to take it off. All of them. I don't want to have nevus skin, I want to have just skin."
A little taken aback, I decided to just go with it as I could tell she was getting worked up, so I said, "sweetheart, it is always your choice whether to leave your nevus as it is or to have operations to remove it."
"What's operations?" she asked.
"Well, the doctors would put a bubble in your skin to help the regular skin grow so they can put that there instead of nevus skin. They would cut the nevus skin away and replace it with the new skin and then sew it up. Your nevus would be gone, but you would have scars."
Now, some might disagree with my tactic here of being completely upfront with a 4 year old. But I'll tell you why in that split second I decided to be honest. I have always told my children the truth about life - about sex and how babies are made; about Mum's cancer; about how I feel about things etc - anything they ask me, I have always told the truth. I believe it makes conversations easier, and their trust in me strong. I truly believe knowledge is power and I feel that by arming them with correct knowledge I am encouraging them to make good decisions in their lives.
Olive's decision on whether to go through the removal process or not will always be hers. But I want her to know both ways what might be in store. So that's why I told her the truth about removal, and didn't 'baby' her during our conversation or assume she was too young to understand.
She gasped. "Cut me? I don't want anyone to cut me!"
"Well the doctors would give you medicine so you couldn't feel them do it, it just might be sore afterwards."
She started to cry. "I don't want anybody to cut me Mummy, but I want my nevus to not be there."
She threw her arms around my neck and cuddled into me.
I snuggled my baby back and told her, "Olive, you listen to me. You are beautiful and perfect exactly how you are. Your nevus is beautiful and it makes you special. It is just a part of who you are, and everyone has parts they don't like about themselves."
She had quietened down at this point and she pulled away and looked at me.
I said, "I don't like my toes. And I don't like my double chin. And I used to hide my potato finger."
(I have a funny little finger on my left hand that is almost a centimetre shorter than the one on the right. When I was growing up, I was so self conscious of it, I used to clench my hands all the time in an effort to hide it from view. A few months back, Meisha decided my finger looked like a potato and now calls it my potato finger. Every time the kids or I say it, it cracks me up!)
Olive giggled. I kissed her head and said, "don't you ever forget how beautiful you are my darling. You're just perfect."
She smiled and said, "Ok mama. Love you."
"Love you too bub."
She closed her eyes and I got to thinking. This is the second time now this has happened where she has said she doesn't like her nevus. And both times I have made the assumption that she is tired and in a silly mood. At what point do I stop assuming, and take it on board and really listen to what she is saying? I can't help automatically counteracting what she is saying with positive affirmations about her, but am I actually dismissing her real feelings? Or is it simply a case of a little girl saying something for a reaction? I feel she is far too little right now to make a decision such as this. And I want her to be totally secure in her decision as well.
My thoughts flickered to what might have instigated her comments. Maybe someone at kindy had said something?
"Is anyone mean about your nevus Olive?"
Her: "No mummy, they all love it. They think it's cool."
I smiled. "Because it is! It's part of what makes you special!"
She smiled as her eyes closed again and quietly said, "I love my nevus Mummy. Love you. Sweet dreams mama."
And off to sleep she went, with the knowledge that her Mummy thinks she is perfect exactly as she is.