Sunday, August 19, 2012

Haley Checks In

(love this photo of Haley and Lisa compared.  Same smile.  And no, that is not me next to my wife.  I am standing behind her, that's my brother-in-law)

I’m in the middle of writing my blog when my twelve-year daughter, Haley, walks in my room,

“Dad, can we buy The Hunger Games on DVD?  It's out now and grandma and grandpa said we can watch it after the girls go to bed.”

“I’m writing my blog right now.  Let’s talk about when I’m done.”

“You should write about your wonnn-derrr-fulll daughter.” She says. 

“I wrote about you guys last week.  Why, do you have any thoughts?”

“What is it you need to write about?”

“Who we lost and what it does to us.  How is it not having mom around?”

“Well, it’s different because there’s not a woman adult around.  It’s harder to talk about puberty to my dad because men have different versions of puberty.”

“What about when mom died. How was that for you?”

“I don’t remember much about my childhood. I know what she looks like, but not a lot of memories, not a lot of memories of anything when I was eight.”  She says.

“Does it bother you, you don’t remember mom?”

“No. Not really because I can’t remember a lot of things.”

“Does it feel strange growing up not having a mom?”

“A lot of my other friends don’t have both parents, don’t forget I have two kids in my class who had their dads die.”

“But does it bother you not having a mom and dad?  And let me rephrase, you of course have a mom, I meant a mom who was still alive.”

“I know what you meant.  Umm, that’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t know the difference.  I love her, but I don’t know the difference.”

“What about growing up with a dad who has to be the one always enforcing the rules?”

“Like I said, I don’t know the difference of any other way.  But it is different with the dad issuing the discipline because I heard I heard that mothers are more sensitive about punishments.  Can we go to target now and get Hunger Games?”

I’ll have to reflect later on this conversation, but I find it interesting that for her, this all seems normal.  The rough couple of years we all had to go through haven’t retained many memories for her.  Hmmm, so many questions I have.  I always assumed that having such young girls would be difficult, but maybe the kids who are already teenagers have a more difficult time because they do know the difference.
I don’t know.

I am constantly amazed of how resilient kids are. 


  1. Wow Matt! Your daughter is a lovely girl and she is obviously carrying a lot of the genes of your equally lovely wife.
    She sounds so very together. I think our children have a lot to teach us about carrying on with life. Yes, their resiliency but also their acceptance of what is.
    She obviously understands what has happened and has accepted that she is growing up with a Dad as both parents. I guess she also gave hints to where she would like some support (talking to Dad about puberty) and maybe needs a close female relative or friend she can trust to talk about some of that.
    IT is so great she can tell you that.
    She is a lucky girl because you aren't afraid to talk to her about these things.
    Hard work being the "one" parent but i get a sense from what you write that you are doing okay -

  2. Had to respond to your comment about having teenagers when a spouse dies.
    My sons were 15 and 12 when their father died of cancer in 2008. They watched his illness and death over an 18 month period.
    My oldest child is now a junior in college. His last two years of high school were not good and he was lucky to get into a state school four and a half hours away from our home. He continues to struggle with grief over his father's death but we have developed a close relationship where he periodically functions as the adult male in the household. It has been difficult to watch him try to parent my now 16 year old and take on responsibilities that someone his age should never have to. He has gone from a care-free and happy young teenager to a serious young adult.
    My youngest has been my biggest challenge. I will be ecstatic if he even graduates from high school. He finds school "pointless" and wants to enter the military when he is finished; problem is he doesn't have the grades to do much. He started working part-time at a movie theater and seems to enjoy that. He has been miserable since his father died, necessitating two years of therapy. The jury is still out on him.
    We live 10 hours away from my family and my husband's family. I had hoped that my father and brother would have helped fill the gaps as far as a consistent male presence but that has not happened. Our neighbors treat us as if we are invisible unless the lawn is an inch too high or we forget to take out our garbage. My sons tend to spend most of their time with friends who are lucky enough to still live in intact nuclear families.
    I am anxiously awaiting the day that I can move from the house I shared with John into another smaller home that I can maintain myself. I stay here only so my youngest son can graduate from his high school if he can manage to get his act together.
    I am not a good single parent. At all. My children love me but I feel I could have done better.
    So much for the "new normal."

  3. Great post. I do think a child's age plays a huge part in their grief process when a parent dies. My kids were just on the cusp of becoming teens when their father died, and his cancer was a yearlong battle for our family prior to his death. They were intimately involved with that process, homeschooled, and my husband worked from home during that year. My daughter asked to help care for him in his final hours and days, and now wants to be a nurse because of that experience. My son, older than his sister by just 18 months, was also with his dad in the final hours, refusing to leave his side.

    While it hasn't been easy since he passed, their grief has been what I would call normal, and their behavior as teens has been, too. Sometimes it's not easy to separate out what's normal teen behavior and what's grief, but we usually get to the bottom of it.

    Fortunately, we had the benefit of knowing their father was ill, that he would pass, and grieving with him to some extent before his death. They now both attend school outside the home, after taking that time homeschooling to process their grief as they needed. We traveled for a bit after his death, all of us needing a change of scenery. I don't know if that would have been what they needed or wanted had they been younger. We also moved to a different house, renting out the home we shared with their father, settling into a new community and new home to start over fresh. It's felt right for all of us, but we didn't make these decisions immediately. We gave ourselves time.

    And I've found love again, something I didn't expect or think I'd find a second time around after having a wonderful marriage and love for 21 years. I think that has also made a huge and positive impact in my kids' lives.

    Strange and crazy process this life thing.

  4. Thank you Matt for your blog today. Of all things I have had to worry about since Steve's death, it is how it will affect Madi each and every day. Haley's words brought a little peace and affirmed what my brain already knew ...but my heart struggles to believe, that Madi will be ok. As I have said before on WV..children like things to be is us, the adults who tend to muck things up.

  5. it's been 9 months now for us. time to grow a new person. the children, 10,8,almost 6, are begining to forget. it bothers them. i try to speak of daddy off the cuff like i did when he was still here, but it seems half empty somhow. i want to keep him "alive" for them, but also not wanting to look at them. it seems to me that the deeper the love flowed the deeper the pain goes.