Saturday, February 28, 2009

Parenting is Hard: A Story

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.


Love 2B Homeschoolers said...

I find it interesting that you focused on the "grossness" of the body having been there a month, since it seems to me that your son's focus was not about how gross her body was, but rather the fact that she died alone.

Did your grandmother die alone? Sounds like your son is either feeling bad that she did, or is happy that she did not.

It can be so challenging to grieve along side our children; to help our children cope with things that we feel we can barely manage ourselves.

We are going through something similar now. It's definitely a challenge.

Angie Phipps said...

The parenting stuff we read in magazines is like media candy--just the stuff we want to see and not the real life stuff. Whenever dealing with highly emotional issues such as you and your children are going through, I find it is best to be truthful. Let you children see your grief and learn that it is okay to feel that way. Talk about good things, too. Share your wonderful memories and remind them that you still have those. One thing I knew that I wanted to do when I became a parent was to share my feelings and my life with my children. I had a mother that hid everything from us kids, like we weren't old enough to understand. But all it did was keep us from learning about those real life experiences. I want my kids to learn how to cope with these difficulties so that when they are faced with problems later in life, they know how to handle them.

christinemm said...

Regarding my reaction I was sharing what I thought in that flash moment when he told me.

No she did not die alone. Her wish was to die in her own home. She did live alone so she was fine with actually being alone when she died. Due to a blizzard she was moved to my uncles house temporarily (to be less than one week) and actually passed away there. It happened quickly so a caregiver was by her side and my uncle was just in the next room.

I wrote the post just a little while after the thing happened and I had not really thought about what he said and your idea. You could be right.

I can't recall at this point if I ever told my kids where she was and who was with her at the time she passed. I might not have told them as I was so shaken when I got the news.

I will talk to both of them and tell them details. It is very possible that the idea of her dying alone and inside her house would bother him.

If we choose to vacation there we have permission to stay in her home. That could be another big emotional thing to deal with, with the kids.

It all needs to be revisited before her burial in May.

Thanks for giving me your insight.

Summer Fae said...

I am sorry for your loss. I loss my grandmother in January. When Bam passed away I found myself telling my kids a bunch of stories. I felt like a child again, because I could remember them so clearly.

I think that sometimes it is a fine line between being strong and grieving. I say this because as a parent, you want to show your children that it is ok to cry. You show them that everyone grieves in their own way, but you also want to be strong.

Cana said...

"I think that becoming a parent made me, forced me to grow and mature." Yes, I totally agree with you. In order to be healthy, happy and successful, parents and kids need to learn together.