Thursday, May 26, 2011

in response to the old man in maryland.

the early worries,

physical in nature,

disappeared long ago.

it's impossible to know

that she was born

7 weeks early,

but now it's the emotional

that i most worry about.

honesty is the route

i've chosen with her,

no stories,

just facts,

which (i believe) will be

helpful later,

but it doesn't make

now very easy.

a few weeks ago

(out of nowhere)

she said,

"my mommy died and now you are with me."

a simplified understanding

for sure, but

an understanding.

i think it would

be easier to have

some sort of

happy explanation for

her, some sort of

hopeful narrative

drawn from centuries

of folklore,

but i'm a non-believer

and that means

that i don't

have any mythology

to help her

interpret the world

around her.

just my version

of the truth, based

on science and experience.

it doesn't mean

i'm right or wrong,

and it's not a judgement

on how others

deal with their lives,

but it's how

i've chosen to handle things.

and this?

consider it my treatise

for raising

my child.


and it's my response

to the old man who,

after a talk i gave

(during which i discussed many things, including my lack of religion and how i choose to handle telling maddy about her mom),

stood in line

(ostensibly to get his book signed)

and said to maddy,

"do you want to know where your mommy really is?"

'no!" she yelled

back at him.

i was ready to pounce,

not to tell him

he's wrong,

(because i refuse to pass judgement on such things)

but to protect my daughter.

her response

made me think

that i should wait,

that i should let

her take care of things.

he tried again.

"leave me alone!" she

yelled back at him.

he persisted.

(this 3-year old can clearly handle herself)

but i stepped in

and politely told him

to go away.

i wanted to say

something far different,

but i bit my tongue.

my daughter's response

though, had me worried

less about her

emotional state

than the mental

state of this old man.

i still signed

his book

(i even wrote something nice inside).

i looked over at

her and she

was happily playing with

her new pirate toys,

unfazed by what had

just happened.

obviously her response

to the man was

more about the fact

that she hadn't

slept much over the

past few days

and that he was

interrupting her

playtime, but i can't

help but think

i'm raising a fiercely

independent child

who will stick up

for her beliefs

(whatever they may eventually be, and even if they end up differing from mine).


  1. Geez....the nerve of some people. Ugh.

  2. good for you. good for her.

  3. You did the right thing. Your kid is impressively badass for a 3-year-old.

    He probably would have freaked her out by talking about how her mommy is in heaven, and telling her about where she would go without being saved, which is hell. From my own experience being raised evangelical, the second one of those creepy adults gets around a child without their parents, they start pushing fear onto the kids and scaring the shit out of them. Not good.

  4. Good for you Matt! (and you are more man than me...oh right, you really are!) That man had no business forcing his idea on where "mommy is" on you, Maddy or anyone else. Sometimes I say to someone "I wish Art could see ..." and some people will say "Oh he can. Trust me he can." And I want to scream at them! The anger is from a place of how dare you put your beliefs on me. Just like widowhood...we manage our grief differently. How dare someone say "This is the way to do it."

  5. Why do so many of us do that? Imposing our belief system on others? The irony, of course, is that they bristle at those who share a differing view, yet don't hesitate to preach their own again the first chance they get. They don't see it's the same thing.

    If you want to help someone through grief, support them where they are. Respect their beliefs or keep your mouth shut!

    I congratulate your daughter for speaking up. Such a composed little girl. Well done, Maddy!

  6. Explaining death to young, young children - and trying to incorporate your own beliefs (whatever they may be) - is hard enough without added input confusing matters.

    I've usually found it to be quite innocent and well meaning, but it still doesn't make it any easier when people have taken it upon themselves to give their views on where Daddy is without asking me first - whether it be heaven or simply in the ground.

    It's upsetting that this person clearly had knowledge of Matt's choice of explantation to Maddy (and Maddy's disinterest in hearing anything else) and tried to push his views . . . but it sounds like you both handled it perfectly =) Good on ya!


  7. She will be fine.

    My nearly nine year old was informed by a little friend recently that she would go to hell for not believing in Jesus. My daughter matter of factly said, "No I won't." She didn't try to reason with her friend and wasn't disrespectful but she was quite firm. She knows what she believes. Kids like this are a marvel to me b/c I wasn't nearly as confident as a child.

    Good for Maddy and for you, though I wouldn't have been nearly as sanguine with that old man as you were.

  8. That was an unfortunate experience. When my child was little (long before I lost my husband) it seemed like no matter where I went someone was popping up with unsolicited advice. If she started to cry, someone would walk up and say "poor baby, you're so tired" or some such nonsense. I used to feel like a walking target and just wanted to be left alone. It's hard, but try to rise above and keep moving. You both handled it well, you did not sink to his level.

  9. That's what happens when someone acts from a "fear based" kind of thinking. I wish they would just keep their mouth shut....Urgh!!

  10. It amazes me how arogant people can be. To think that their opinion MUST be heard. It's ironic because they think they are enriching others - really its just their selfish needs being fulfilled. Sad.

  11. It amazes me how so many think that you need to believe exactly as they do. Good for you and good for Maddy! From the way you describe Liz, she sounds a lot like her mom!