Saturday, March 10, 2012

Protecting Our Kids or Ourselves?

A very dear uncle died this weekend and family members are gathering to be together for his service.  It is a sad time and a confusing time.  I remember when my children were very young, several aunts and uncles as well as my grandfather and grandmother died.  Each time we would have numerous people tell us that the boys didn't need to be at the funeral home or burial.  A few people actually gave us a judgmental  once over, saying that it wasn't really a place for kids.  At the time, I just knew in my heart that I wanted them to be a part of all the different aspects of family life and of love.  I also knew that they would largely be witnessing grief and pain, not feeling it deeply in a personal way.  They didn't have super close ties to the people who had died, except through me or my husband.  They were there for two reasons: 1. They were part of the family and, 2. In a semi-calculated way, I  knew that I wanted them to be able to have these experiences with people they weren't so close to.

I know that some folks think that we should try to protect our kids from the cruelty and harshness of the world, that we should let them be kids and shelter their childhood  for as long as possible.  In some ways I agree.  I think we should keep violent movies and games as far away, for as long possible.   We should protect our children from abstract pain and suffering, but not from the real life grief that comes when we lose our loved ones.  

When my grandmother was very close to the end of her life, we traveled to visit her as a family.  She was in a nursing home for the first time in her life and it was hard for me to see her there.  I wasn't sure what to say to her or how much she was understanding or remembering.  We walked around the halls with her and took her for a stroll outside on the grounds.  I was flashing on past visits with my grandmother and all the corny jokes and puns she would use, all the little craft projects that she had given me.  I was filled with sadness and regret that I hadn't seen her more over the years.  My two young boys were more quiet in the nursing home than at our own house but they were not nervous around her.  The problem came when they both wanted to be the one in charge of steering her wheelchair.  It turned out that it wasn't them that needed protection but my sweet grandmother.  She had a 7 and 9 year old ready to play tug-o-war with her. 

We don't need to hide our feelings for fear of scaring our kids. The intuitive little buggers will figure it out anyway.   In some of these painful moments it can be hard to be so vulnerable in the presence of our children but how else is it that they will they learn empathy?  We might be scaring them more by pretending that everything is "fine". 

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your uncle, eltee. I think your decision not to hide grief from your boys sounds like the right one. They are sure lucky to have such a smart, thoughtful, and loving mom.