I used to think that the toughest conversation I would ever have to have with each of my sons would be the dreaded SEX talk. That was pretty naïve of me. Because life has a lot more dark moments to it, and I am well aware of that fact. I think as parents we tend to get so very caught up in the here and now moments that we forget there will be times when our children grieve or are scared or angry in a way that holds great depth or are nursing a broken heart that has been busted so badly they think it will never be repaired. Turns out the sex talk isn’t so much of a biggie. I’ve been through it with three of my sons already. The basics of why and how and who its okay for. (Why-pleasure and procreation. How-general anatomy 101. Who-consenting adults who love eachother.) That conversation was a bit awkward, but at least I had all the answers.
But than along comes the HEAVY stuff.
Like the day they saw scars on a family friend. A man they look up to and adore. And I had to sit and explain what cutting is, and why people do it. I had to tread very carefully because I was afraid, knowing they looked up to this young man, that they might want to try it simply because he does it. I had to get into the dynamics of coping skills and emotions and mental health. Deep stuff for little boys to grasp.
Then the day came when a teenage boy, another family friend passed away. He had been struggling with health issues for years and his passing wasn’t really so unexpected. But to have to walk into that funeral home with my two oldest sons by my son and watch their faces as the coffin containing their friend was carried past, mere inches from them…..that same friend whose house they used to visit and would play video games with….I watched my 9 year old turn and walk outside and though I did follow him and wrap my arms around him there on the concrete steps in front of the funeral home, I knew there was nothing in me that could rationally explain to this young boy WHY teenagers die. Or children. Or babies. As young kids we believe only really old people die. The first time we learn differently is a brutal reality check.
Death has turned out to be a biggie. Its touched us a lot in the last three years. The first time was my fiancé 2 1/2 years ago. He drowned. There was no warning, no expectation of it. I didn’t get the chance to break the news to my sons in a gentle way that the man they called Daddy had died. The police showed up at my door and broke the news. I dropped to my knees in front of my house and sobbed. My sons, being typical children, were being nosy and had been peering out the open window, more excited to see a real police officer than anything. They heard every word the officers said. My neighbor went in, took the cookies out of the oven and sat them down to try to explain things a bit better while I called Kens mom and tried answering basic questions the officers kept asking. Later that night I sat in a dark bedroom with my sons all around me in sleeping bags on the floor at my moms. My 12 year old, Mr. Stoic, the boy who had ached the deepest when his father had left us years earlier and who had taken a solid year to get close to Ken, spoke up and asked in a quivering voice with tears rolling down his face “Why does God keep taking Daddies away?”
I didn’t have an answer for him.
I had to be honest and tell him I didn’t know why.
Two and a half years later I still don’t have that answer.
Two months after Ken passed, the Chihuahua he had gotten me got hit by a car. My then-2 year old had grown very attached to Goliath the Chihuahua since his Daddy had gone to heaven. I wrapped Goliath up in a towel lovingly while Drezdyn watched. Then he went inside, lay on the couch and cried, saying “Lie-Lie. Lie-Lie” over and over as tears streamed down his cheeks. (That was how he said Goliath.)
Last winter another family friend, this time a woman we had lived across the street from a few years earlier, hung herself under a bridge. Her daughters had been to my sons birthday party. I had to sit my sons down and explain the dynamics of depression and suicide. I had to answer questions of why. Again, not much in my arsenal there. Its easier for kids to grasp the concept of death by accident (like Daddy and Goliath.) And they can even comprehend death due to evil, like murder. (They’ve seen movies. They’ve seen the news.) But death on purpose by ones own hand is such an intricate, elaborate, complicated thing…..I have known darkness of deep depression myself. And can honestly say that if it were not for my children, I doubt I would be here today. But I still struggle to explain suicide to my boys.
Then this Spring another of our dogs died. I ushered my 5 year old into the room where ButterBean lay on my bed, dying rapidly, the breath coming out of him in jagged rasps, and I stood back to watch my little boy be a very brave young man. He climbed up on that bed and curled himself around his beloved dog and informed Butterbean what a good dog he had always been and how much he loved him and how much he would miss him. And I stood there, allowing my son the space and respect he needed, not yet offering my arms to hold him, because I understood he needed this. And tears streamed down my face. Because it hit me that there are moments like this when as a mom all I can be is THERE. When they are done saying their goodbyes. Because some parts of our journey we MUST walk alone.
When my ex got violent in front of them and police had to be involved and I finally had to kick him out….I had to sit and explain to my sons about addiction and alcoholism and domestic violence. I had to explain the war in ones own mind that comes with addiction. I had to make it perfectly clear how very not okay it is to ever hurt a female. I had to reassure them he wasn’t going to be back. And still my 10 year old checked the locks every night for a solid month. I had to explain about respect and value of women and why I still believed in love because THAT violence and rage was NOT in any way love. I had to explain what I believe love to be.
That’s the heavy stuff. And I expect plenty more to come. That’s the stuff no one ever warns you about when you first become a parent. You expect the diapers and feedings. you expect the discipline issues and tantrums and adolescence and attitudes and curfews and chores and dating……
But no one bothers to mention to you that at some point you’ll be playing therapist and confidant and heart-soother. Someday you’ll be fishing in that barrel of handy answers you usually have at the ready and come up with two clenched fists that you’ll open to show nothing but emptiness. And you’ll want to shake those fists at the sky and ask God why. But then you’ll remember that it all just comes with the territory of raising little people into big people. Its all just life and living it. We’re all trying to understand the heavy stuff.