Sunday, January 14, 2018

An Elephant for Dada

Dear Chris:

Ember brought me one of her stuffed animals today. She said she always wanted to give it to you, because it’s an elephant and you love elephants, but now she can’t give it to you.

I told her we could still give it to you, and we put it in the special box we got where we put photos of you and other things that remind us of you.

So your daughter gave you an elephant today. I just wanted you to know.



Saturday, January 13, 2018

The New Normal

It’s been a long time since I’ve written here. For a reason. Life has happened, and death has happened, and change has happened. Big change. It almost feels like my blog was the “before” and now I’m standing here in the “after.”

We are now a family of four. I am a single mom of three young children who lost their father to depression and an inability to cope with certain realities. I am a widow, grieving the loss of her husband but also acknowledging that I never really knew him fully. He didn’t let me. I spent ten years wondering why I wasn’t making my husband happy, and ten years wondering what was wrong with me, and how I could make things better for him and for us. Then I stopped trying, because trying was too much. And then he killed himself.

So now it is me and the kids, and our story is very different but also very much the same. Our daily routine is hardly changed. I do what I used to do. Get up. Get the kids fed and dressed and lunches packed while pouring 24 ounces of coffee down my throat as quickly as possible. In the afternoons I pick them up and feed them like a short order cook and bathe them and make sure their homework is done and get them in pajamas and talk to them about their days and sit with them while they fall asleep in their beds. It’s a steady stream of busy-ness, but it’s ok. I am now EVERYTHING for the kids. I am the bread winner, and the cook, and the cuddler, and the handyman, and the rule-maker, and the joke teller, and the bill payer, and the listener, and the mediator... I’m EVERYTHING. And that’s ok too, it is just different, and it has taken me six months to embrace this new normal.  It’s only sometimes overwhelming.

What is more overwhelming is knowing that by no fault of their own, my children lost someone who they depended on being there for them for a long long time. What is more overwhelming is that the children’s memories of their father are already fading. When I asked Ember about what she remembers about Chris just the other night, she said she only remembered a few things, and that it seems to her like daddy was maybe all a dream. When Oren had to talk about family in his class the other day, he said family is that his dad died. 

What is astonishing in all this is that the kids are doing incredibly well. They are thriving at school, they are not developing nervous habits or acting out in any unusual ways, and they are really just happy kids, laughing and playing and adjusting so beautifully to our new life. I learn from them every day. I observe them, and their ability to accept change, and their ability to continue to be themselves, and I aim for that same thing. I care for them, and they teach me.

This is our new life. It is me and my three children: my sun, my moon, and my stars.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Teaching My Son to Not Be Like the New President

Yesterday, as I drove Oren and Erez to daycare, I had NPR on the radio. I don’t often listen to the news on the daycare commute because I am nervous about the kids picking up on bits and pieces of information that might not be age appropriate, but with everything going on – Trump’s first press conference, the leaked dossier, etc., I was overly curious about what was going on in the news.
Of course, the words “President-Elect Trump” were spoken on the radio within seconds of my turning it on. And Oren, ever the curious child, asked me when Trump was going to become the president. When I told him Trump would be president within the next few weeks, Oren looked thoughtfully out the window. Then he looked at me and smiled.
“Trump says girls are PIGS!!” he said, and started laughing.
I hadn’t told Oren that Trump had called a woman a pig. He had heard it from a girl in his preschool class back in September, when the campaigns were heating up. From that point on, whenever he has heard Trump’s name, he has the same reaction: Trump says girls are PIGS!
And I have had to have the same conversation with him. Over and over and over again.
“Oren,” I say, “It was absolutely wrong of Mr. Trump to call a girl a pig. That is name calling, and it hurts people’s feelings.”
Oren looked at me. He GETS it, but he still doesn’t seem to REALLY get it. He’s four years old. To him, saying the words “poopy” and “fart” is REALLY funny. He thinks calling people animal names is funny, too. He doesn’t understand that the word “pig” and “cow” are used to degrade a person and make them feel fat and shameful.
 “Oren,” I continue, “There are some words that SEEM funny, but they aren’t funny, and people use them to hurt other people’s feelings. If someone called ME a pig, I would be really sad. Would you want someone to call Mommy a name that would make me sad?”
Oren shook his head.
“Sometimes, even important people can behave badly, and can do mean things. Even the president.”
And that is the end of the conversation. For a while. Until the next time Trump’s name is mentioned and Oren remembers that Trump said girls are pigs.
Unfortunately, this is a conversation I think I am going to be repeating many, many times in many different ways over the next four years. I think about Oren evolving from a four year old preschooler into an 8 year old grade school boy all in the era of Trump, and it scares me. As his awareness of the world around him grows, and he is more mindful of news and politics and our country, I know I am going to have to continue to run interference between our president’s words and my son’s interpretations of those words. I am going to have to have to continue to explain that our chosen leader doesn’t always say nice things, doesn’t always treat people with respect, and doesn’t always lead by example.
As we ready ourselves for the inauguration next week, I find myself filled with concerns I never imagined myself having. How am I going to teach my children to respect others, show kindness to their peers, to speak with empathy, and to exhibit restraint and care, when their president is unable to do so?