3/26/2015

When you suck at being a grieving parent


Joey is buried in a cemetery that just happens to be right down the street from where I take Slim for bimonthly speech therapy appointments. Last week, the weather was finally not bitterly cold and windy, and I thought for a minute that I should go down the street to the cemetery and visit Joey's grave.

But I didn't.

I didn't go. Because I hate to go there.

The last time I was there was Christmas time. My parents' neighbor had decorated Joey's grave for the Holidays.

As you can see, it still wasn't undecorated for fall. 



Last week I wondered if I should go to see if the neighbor had removed the Christmas items yet.

But I didn't.

I didn't go. Because I hate to go there.

In fact, I hate a lot about the whole "grieving process." I hate that it's called a process. What's to process? My son is dead, and I will never see him again.

And now I have something new in my parenting journey to feel guilty about.

It's not enough that I regularly forget to ask my fifth grader for his discipline card on the weekends so I can sign it for its return on Monday.

It's not enough that my third grader asks me to cuddle with him every night; but instead I am falling asleep in my toddler's bed, also leaving Hubby with no one to cuddle.

It's not enough that I don't make my academically struggling first grader practice reading and math facts more often.

It's not enough that my toddler gets way too much screen time while I am trying to "get things done;" and then I wonder, what in the hell did I even get done today? 

It's not enough that I make the same mediocre dinners night after night.

It's not enough that at least a couple times a week my boys have to dig dirty school clothes out of their hampers because mom hasn't done any laundry in days.

And it's certainly not enough that I am involved in, like, zero committees at the boys' school.

There are so many ways I can make myself feel guilty about not being a good enough regular parent, much less a grieving one.

I mean, I see these beautiful blogs and Facebook pages dedicated to someone's lost child. Foundations and organizations and movements and fundraisers and 5Ks and books and all of the wonderful things that other grieving parents manage to do to honor their children's memories.

And here I sit, unable to even finish what I have started and making excuses as to why I can't. Unable to even go to my son's grave and remove some damned decorations that are three months old.

Because they are still there. Hubby's mother told us they were on her last visit to the grave.

They are there, and I am not.

I would rather tuck my grief away in the privacy of my own mind. It's safer there. Instead of feeding it, I can ignore it. Or only face it sideways rather than sailing directly at it - second star to the right and straight on till morning.

But that only feeds my guilt as well. I have actual plans, just like those other grieving parents do, but they get lost in my complete failure to execute them. The status quo is safer. Acceptance lies in status quo. Good memories lie here under which the bad have long been buried.

To change anything now would be akin to digging up the body, and that would just be too hard.

But it might also take away some of the guilt.

As I stand at Joey's grave up on that god-awful lonely hill, down the hill to the southwest is a stone in the shape of a butterfly. It belongs to a baby girl who lived only a month. 30 days on the earth. I often wonder how many of those days were spent in her mother's arms.

Of the rare times I visit my own son's grave, I often turn toward that child's grave. It is always decorated with balloons and flowers and stuffed animals and holiday decorations.

And I feel guilty that I am not giving my own son those tributes.

But then I realize that child's mother only had 30 days with her, none of which was a holiday or a birthday or any other special day.

I had six birthdays with my son. Five Christmases and Halloweens. Six Easter egg hunts.





Three first days of school.



We had vacations and trips to the park and proud moments watching him go off the diving board for the first time and play soccer with his friends.

That little baby girl's mom didn't get any of that.  She is getting it now, but only in the suckiest way imaginable for any parent.

Grief isn't a competition. No one wins, and there is no judge awarding points for "Best Use of a Lawn Ornament to Spruce up a Headstone."

No one is grieving better than you; just differently. 

As if we don't have enough to feel guilty about as parents, we should not feel guilty about the way we manifest our sadness and grief. A very wise woman - who herself is a grieving daughter and grandmother - once said to me, "Just because you are not there at his grave every day doesn't mean you don't hold him here (she placed her hand over her heart) twenty-four/seven."

I remember taking this picture like it was just yesterday. 


And just like that, she took away some of my guilt, winning this grief round - for now.








3/10/2015

The "Chores vs. Allowance" Debate


"Mom, how can I earn $90 really fast?" My nine-year-old is tall enough to look me in the eyes while he's asking me this.

"Get a job, you bum," I answer jokingly.

"No, Mom, I'm serious," he implores. "There's a super cool new Lego set that I really want to get before the price goes up."

Well, at least he's like his mom: has expensive taste, but shops when there is a sale. 

"That's pretty expensive, Bud," and I let my voice trail off from there. What I'm really thinking is that he doesn't need another Lego set, especially one that is that expensive.

But, how can you tell that to a nine-year-old, Lego obsessed boy who always puts the Legos together and keeps them together?

He goes to Hubby next and asks if he can shovel the driveway for money.

No grass, just mud. 
"All the snow has melted."

Mow the lawn?

"We don't have any grass yet."

Help plant the garden?

And that's when "the talk" begins.

You see, Hubby does not believe in giving allowance. We've been around and around with this discussion. I think it would be nice if the boys had their own money. I make chore charts and lists and schedules with special job codes for each boy to follow.

Hubby thinks that everyone should just "pitch in and get it done." His way people argue about why they have to vacuum the floor after dinner again because they just did it last night, and why does so-and-so never have to vacuum? In my way, you do it because it's your job this week.

Yes, in Hubby's way, things do get done faster sometimes; that is, when little boys aren't sneaking away hoping we won't notice they didn't actually do anything to help. In my way, we are frequently waiting on someone to finish his meal first so he can finish his job first so someone else can do his. But it's fair and equal. I believe in fair and equal (although I don't believe they are the same thing - post for another time).

While we were trying to sell our old house, we had to clean quite frequently for showings and open houses. When we all pitched in, it wasn't so bad. So we decided to let our cleaning lady go and clean the new house ourselves. Each of the boys has his own room and shares a bathroom with one other brother. Their weekend chores look like this:

  • Bedrooms: Tidy up, put clothes away, change sheets, bring down dirty laundry (including sheets and towels) and sort into baskets. Vacuum your own room and hallway outside your room. Dust dresser, desk, shelf, and nightstand.
  • Bathrooms: With help from Mom or Dad, wipe own counter and sink, clean toilet, and wipe floor. One person will do powder bath.
  • Media Room: One person vacuums, one person dusts, and one person “fluffs” (straightens movies, games, pillows, throw blankets, etc…) There is a chart indicating who does what which week.
  • Basement: Everyone helps pick up toys. 
We're going on the third month in our new home. They still moan and groan about it. You'd think it would be routine by now, but it's not. 

However, it will be because in a way, I agree with Hubby: everyone should do chores and contribute to the run of the house. Hubby is a very generous dad. He takes the boys lots of places. They get nice gifts for their birthdays and Christmas and Easter, and sometimes on no special occasion at all. And he does give them money every now and then when they do special chores with him that require a lot of hard work (like raking leaves or fixing something or carrying boxes). That being said, I know we agree on one thing: we don't want our sons to grow up being spoiled, entitled jerks. 

Both Hubby and I grew up in families with parents who worked really hard, not only at their jobs, but in our homes as well. The sooner we teach them to take pride in their home and their possessions, the better. So here were Hubby's suggestions to Knox on how he could make money:

  • Learn how to mow and trim bushes. Charge the neighbors for your services.
  • Rake leaves.
  • Plant a garden and go door-to-door selling the leftover produce. 
This is their grand plan. So when he gets older, I am hiring him out for lawn work. However, this fall, supposedly we will have a bumper crop of produce in the empty field next to our house. If you need some, be sure to visit our stand. It will be the one with the unorganized rows of produce, the sign that is falling off, the workers who are arguing about what their exact job is and how much money they should get, and probably will be the cart that is eventually abandoned by said workers. Free produce for everyone!

Chore to allowance ratio? Not learned yet, but we're getting there. 



Do you give your kids chores? Do they earn an allowance? 


feature photo: shutterstock.com



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