I just had one of those moments where I'm reminded how hard parenting is. And how it seems that sometimes the hard parts seldom get discussed. These hard things are not the romantic notions of parenting that people often think about when they think, "I want a baby, I feel ready to be a parent".
Kids come up with stuff out of the blue. You never know what will happen next or what they will say. Sometimes it becomes clear we have a new thing to handle that we were unprepared for. Sometimes we have to respond immediately and we are not ready. No one could have prepared us ahead of time sometimes.
I think that becoming a parent made me, forced me to grow and mature. I had no choice if I was to deal with the situations at hand, I would have to grow up even more. I have had to do things I didn't want to do (beyond changing dirty diapers). I have had to do gross things like clean kid barf when I myself was sick and feeling terrible. But the harder things are the things having to do with emotions and with the relationship between my children and myself.
My children were close to my maternal grandmother. We visited her between two and six times a year since my first child was born. They have lived with her for a week at a time, in close quarters. She was always nice to them, very loving and kind.
When she passed away two months ago, I myself was grieving, of course. I learned that when a grandparent dies, even though I'm forty-something, a grown adult can suddenly like a child inside. Yes I was a mother and a wife, but at times I felt as if I was a young child upset about her grandmother's passing. But I had to help my children cope with their emotions too. They were grieving also. So I had a dual thing happening, me grieving her for my own reasons yet me trying to be strong to help my children through their grief. It is not easy.
The other day I was washing dishes. It is the evening and my son had all day to tell me this but he just came up to me with this story. This is case where I had to think and react quickly.
"I had a bad dream last night. I dreamed we went to Maine to visit Nanny. But we didn't know she had died. She died sitting in her rocking chair but no one knew. We thought she was alive and we were going to visit her. When we walked into the she was right there in her rocking chair, dead for a month, with her eyes closed. It was horrible. I felt bad that no one knew she had died and that she had been sitting there for a whole month."
Now what in the world was I to say to that? I was grossed out by that. I mean, let's be honest, that is the stuff of horror movies.
To calm my mind I asked if she looked okay, like she was just sitting there like normal? He said yes, just with her eyes closed. I breathed a sigh of relief as in my my mind I was thinking of what could have been a bad visual scene, something even worse and more scary.
I didn't know what to say so I just said it sounded like a terrible dream.
He had a fever and the flu when he had that dream. Poor kid. (Note, this child has not yet seen a horror film or a crime television docudrama. If he had he may have had other visuals come to mind in that dream. Phew.)
No one really prepares parents for stuff like how to help a child grieve the loss of a loved one. Instead mainstream parenting magazines talk about much less important stuff, like how to make a cupcake with a certain holiday decoration on it to bring to the child's classroom for a holiday party, or how to get kids to stop using a pacifier. That type of stuff is fluff and nonsense when harder things start happening.