Thursday, 15 March 2012

How Many Kid's Do You Have?

    How many kids do you have?  This is a question that is really difficult to answer.  Any way I answer it I feel like a liar.  The correct answer is I have 5 kids, and I do.  The question that follows, is how old are they?  This too is really difficult to answer.  I know how old my kids are, but....   The correct answer is My oldest should be 17, in a way he's 9, then 10, then 7, then 7 and 3.
    Most of the time I try to gauge my answer to the question to the questioner.  If I don't know and will never see this person I reply with the truth (well kind of), "I have 5 kids, 17, 10, 7 year old twins and a 3 year year old".  Their reply is "I bet the oldest is a big help".  My reply "Not really", and I give them that "you know how teen age boys are" look.  To people that I will see again, my reply is "4 kids, 10, 7 year old twins and a 3 year old."  Their reply to that inevitably is either "WOW, you have your hands full!" to which I smile and nod, because I really should not respond in the way that my head says to.  The other also charming reply is "WOW, do you guys ever watch TV" to which they chuckle to themselves and think themselves very witty.  To this I also give the smile, because these individuals REALLY don't want to know what I'm thinking.
    Here is the part of the story where I tell why this is a tricky question.  I am proud to say that I have 5 kids.  I love Gabriel, he is a part of our family, even though he is not physically here.  Death makes people uncomfortable.  I do not tell new people about Gabe until I have known them for some time, not because I don't love my son, but because it changes the way that person looks at me.  When I meet new people they see "ME", the funny woman who happens to be very involved in her community and is raising 4 great kids.  When new people find out about Gabe, you can physically see their discomfort.  They view me differently after that.  Their demeanor changes.  It goes from seeing "ME" to seeing a "sad pathetic woman who has lost a child", and how uncomfortable that makes them feel.  The view that they held of me morphs before my eyes.  Why is it that if you loose your parents you are an orphan, if you loose your husband you are a widow, your wife, a widower.  There is no name for parents who have lost children, why is that?
    After Gabe died my community rallied around us.  I had strangers bringing us meals.  Friends and family were here.  It was amazing.  People really wanted to help.  After a few weeks the desire to help changed to discomfort.  I'm not sure if people thought I would walk around sobbing.  People that I know actually would cross the street when they saw me, and put down their heads, so that I would be fooled into thinking that they did not see me.  It was as if they they thought that the death of a child was contagious.  It was then that I learned, death makes people very uncomfortable.
    It was also around this time that I learned that people who had no idea what they were talking about had great advice about grief, and that people say a lot of really stupid things!  I had a person tell me that Gabe's birthday, was not his birthday any longer, because he was dead (this individual should feel very lucky that I chose to keep my words to myself).  I have been introduced to people as "This is Tristan, you know the dead boy's mother".  "Oh, you are so brave.  I could never be as brave as you.  I would just lie in my bed all day".  My response "Then you don't love your children very much, do you".   At the time of Gabe's death I was physically in really bad shape.  We had been in a car accident, and I nearly died myself.  I had an incision that went from my breast bone to my pelvis.  I could not move my right leg.  But more importantly, I had a three year old who had to sit in a freezing cold car in the pitch dark for hours.  She had a broken leg, but more than that, she had a broken spirit.  I also had 5 month old twins.  I was in the hospital for a week, and was released before I should have been so that I could make funeral arrangements for my 9 year old child.  I was further tied up for a week preparing for the funeral and being at the funeral and visitation.  I was not in their lives for two weeks.  How do you look into the eyes of your surviving children and essentially tell them "I loved your brother more than you".  I would have loved to just lay in bed, but I am a mother before I am anything else, and that includes a heart broken woman.  My children needed me, more than they had ever needed me.  I do not pretend that they had a whole mother, most days I just pretended for them, but I was physically there.  I guess that makes me strong, but not in the insincere and condescending way that others told me I was.
    So if you ask how many kids I have, for "you" I will tell the truth, I have 5 kids, and yes, my husband and I DO watch t.v., and no, that is not "a lot of kids", it's just perfect for us.

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