01/03/2014 02:06 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Explaining 'The Brave Hat of Fighting Cancer' to My 4-Year-Old Son

I am blessed with two wonderful kids.

My son is 4 years old. He loves cars and the movie Toy Story. He is compassionate and always wants to help people who are crying. He says the best way to help someone who is crying is to smile. He loves letters and numbers and has a incredible memory. Just a good-hearted kid.

He is also in the stage where he asks "why?" about everything and is honestly blunt about anything. I mean... he is 4.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked him up from school and asked how his day was. I enjoy the days when I am able to do that. He runs to me and then tells me proudly how he ate all of his lunch or how he did not get upset at school. He tells me about his new best friend. It changes every day. I am glad he is so popular!

That day, we got in my car and started to go home. He was babbling about the radio station selection and what he wanted for his snack. Then, all of the sudden, he said...

"And my new best friend's mommy wore a silly hat today."

His friend's mommy is fighting breast cancer and wears a head scarf. She takes care of a family and goes through chemotherapy. She is always running around school and is in really good spirits. I have actually never seen her in a bad mood. She never stops! She is a friend of the family. Incredibly nice and so down-to-Earth.


One of the hardest lessons in life is that even wonderful people get sick. I stopped my son from going on with the conversation. He is 4. How can I explain cancer to a child? It is hard enough to explain it to an adult.

So, I told my son that his friend's mom was not wearing a silly hat. She was wearing a brave hat. A very brave hat! I told him that people who live life to the fullest and try to be happy when things can be sad wear one. I told him that it was not only mommies who wear them. Daddies wear them and kids wear them as well. But the people who wear them are brave. Very brave.

That was the end of the conversation and then my son went on to talk about cars. He never mentioned it to me again. I was not really sure if he even understood what I was saying, but I was hoping he understood that the people fighting cancer are brave people.

This weekend, I came home from work after a long day. My son was running around and my wife looked exhausted as well. She pulled me aside to tell me about something that happened...

She told me that my son was playing with his Mrs. Potato Head and she was wearing a headscarf. He said she had no hair and was very brave. She was so brave that she wore a "brave hat" just like his friend's mom. He said that she was happy and she is smiling and even the other Potato Heads were proud of her. Proud of her because she was brave.


I told her that I mentioned something to him about it a couple of weeks ago when we were coming home from school. I did not think he even understood what I was saying.

My wife thought he learned it in school.

At the end of the day, I do not care where he heard it... I just want him to know that anyone who fights cancer is brave.