We widows all come from different circumstances and backgrounds, but I think we can all agree on one thing. Our kids, by no fault of their own, are different than other kids–plain and simple. Why the heck am I bringing this up, 8 years after the death of my husband and her father? Because, well, sometimes people just don’t get it. They have no malicious intent in their side comments and judgments, but sometimes their words can fracture the already fragile shell of a Survivor.
Last week, while discussing our upcoming plans to view a recently released movie based on a novel that my seven year old daughter and I read together, some of my dear friends interjected their opinions. Again, let me stress that I am absolutely certain that they never meant to cause any sort of friction. They are supportive, wonderful friends who love my family and I, but they have never walked a day in my shoes. Some days my life seems so normal that even I forget for a moment the path that brought me to where I am today and am able to be an average wife and mom, with normal wife and mom issues. Too much laundry, whiney toddlers, filthy car interiors, school lunches and chaotic random dance parties in the kitchen with the kids in the middle of cooking dinner.
My said friends became very defensive about my choice to take my daughter to see the above mentioned movie. Comments such as “It’s too violent to take a seven-year old to.” and “If I had a child, I would never have read the book in the first place and I definitely wouldn’t take them to see the movie.” My first reaction was to become angry. Mostly because I felt that they were saying that I was an awful mom. Sure, I screw up plenty in my mothering, but I pride myself in learning from my screw ups and trying to do better, for no other reason but to save my children oodles of money in therapy costs down the road. (I’d much rather them spend that money on a nice nursing home for me!) My second reaction was to think, long and hard, about why it made me so mad. After a week of stewing, I came to the conclusion that, as I said above, kids whose parents have been killed in war are just DIFFERENT.
At the tender age of four, I had to explain to my sweet daughter, why her daddy, who she never met, is buried in two different states. Pause for a moment and absorb it. I had to find the words to tell my girl, my sweet four year old girl, that the bomb that killed her dad had broken his body into so many pieces that the Army had to, essentially, mix up what they couldn’t identify with the four other men who were killed that day, and bury those remains separately from most of him, which was buried in another state. What the hell, right?!? Most grown-ups can’t quite grasp this concept, but grasp it she did. And you know what, it didn’t freak her out, because this awful state of affairs IS HER LIFE. She will never meet her dad. Never. Instead of him attending dad’s and donuts days at school, we instead picnic at his grave. She learned way too early that the world is harsh, and that sometimes it’s violent, and it’s not fair. She knows real violence–violence that snatches the people who are supposed to be there, away from you.
I don’t allow her to play violent video games, we generally don’t watch violent movies and we don’t have toy guns in our home. We don’t hide details of her dad’s death from her, nor do we hide the fact that her on-earth-dad(AKA stepdad), does the same job that took her father from this earth. We don’t shelter her when our friends or Soldiers in our unit are wounded. It’s reality for us, and her brain will not be warped because of a movie she watches or a book we read together. Fiction can be explained and written off. Reality, cannot. Reality must be accepted and reality must be dealt with. If reality hasn’t already damaged her beyond repair, then I feel that the consequences of infrequent artificial violence, will have minimal effect.
So, to my friends, and the friends of all widows, please, accept that our kids are different, and the things that they discuss with reckless abandon that might mortify you, are normal to them. They have been forced to mature before their time. They have been required to adapt to a state of normal that is the stuff of nightmares to you. Love them, love us, and encourage us as we struggle to raise them to the best of our abilities. We may not be perfect, but I assure you we’re doing the best we can.
11 thoughts on “Raising Kids Changed by War”
This gave me chills. I love you girl! And I think you are a stellar parent! <3 P.S. Gig Em Ags! 😀
Very profound! Being a mother is such a difficult and overwhelming job, even on the best of days, in the most optimistic moments. But being a mother to a child whose father has died, and even more, a violent death, is a challenge that only those in your shoes will understand. I applaud your efforts with your daughter. Only you know her depth of her understanding and maturity. Your relationship is just that-yours. How gracious of you to allow your friends to express their opinion and then have the patience of considering their viewpoints. I am a mother of three teenagers, who, three years ago lost their father(a Colonel in the Army) not in war, but to brain cancer. As you said, they are different than their peers. Their coping skills are on a different level. A challenge that I find to be constant work is making certain that while they are more mature and have witnessed and know horrible outcomes, it is so important to safeguard a precious childhood. How important it is to continue to shield them from more horrors when possible and maintain some sort of innocence that only children are allowed to have. I believe that children, no matter how aware they are, do not have the same rationale adults do and can easily over simplify things into their grief, and at times fiction is blurred into their reality.Those feelings become overwhelming as they cannot sort through it all like an adult. My children are teenagers and often I have to stop to understand the underlying issue of their emotion. The questions are: is this a normal hormonal thing, a spat with a friend, or are they hurting for Dad? So while I understand your child’s differences, as my own kids, I hope that you remember to encourage and protect all the beauty that only a childhood can embrace.
With love from a solo-parent.
Thank you so much for this. God Bless You and your family.
Thank you for this. Your candor is amazing. I have not lost a family member to this war but I have had two children who have been there. Every day I Thank God for bring the first home and I am waiting for the second to return very very shortly. These are my children brought about by love and commitment. You lost something as precious your choice as a life partner and you had to tell the individual brought about by that choice that her life was never going to be the same. Sounds to me like you are doing a wonderful job, all you can do is your best and it sure sounds t like you are doing it. Please remember this one little statement; You will never be able to please everyone so make the choices that you can deal with and when it is your time to meet the good man upstairs you will have no regrets and he is the one that counts. People will always judge stay strong young lady and I am proud of you.
Thank you for writing this. My kids know things that only adults can’t even imagine or process, but they know and accept it. Mostly because well it is what it is. You explained it beautifully. My prayers are with you and your daughter.
Thank you for your transparency.
I admire you being able.to talk to your child about the truth. If I may ask you for.some advice I’d appreciate. My husband served two tours and was wounded but he returned home but he suffered from PTSD. He too his own life July of last year. We have a 9 year old son. He knows his dad is gone but he.doesn’t know how. He isn’t your typical child like you said bbut he suffers from anxiety and OCD what is the best way to discuss how his father passed with him from a parenting standpoint. I worry how he will accept it when as an adult its hard.to.come.to terms with. Any advice from someone who has similarly been there would be a great help. Thank you for your service also because not only husbands serve kids and.wives do.too. God Bless
Thank you for your honesty and for sharing. It is hard for many of us to raise our children by ourselves….and for others to judge us when they have not walked in our shoes, have not buried a husband, have not taken their children to visit “daddy” (at a grave site) is unnecessarily hurtful. Do the best you can for yourself and your daughter…that is all anyone should expect. I am proud of you!
Every child is different to begin with, and parenting is all about making the right choice for YOUR child. Your sweet daughter has had a tremendous amount to deal with in her short life, but her best weapon is a mom who so obviously loves her, worries over her, and is determined to teach her that you have to meet life head on and be strong. Keep going, block out the noise, and do what you know is right, regardless of what friends and loved ones think. <3
Thank you for sharing. I don’t know you, but you’re obviously an amazing mother. Always do what’s right for you and your daughter and while people don’t mean to be hurtful sometimes, they are. People make everything about them, and that’s just the reality of life. I hope that you stay strong and go beyond the mindless comments that might cut away at your beautiful spirit.
My son,2yrs old,father passed away about a month ago,he wasn’t a soldier though,he had a car accident.we weren’t together anymore at the time of his passing,but I’ve been struggling with it a lot.despite the relationship ending months before he passed away,the hurt,anger,shock is still there,I doubt it’ll ever go away.i struggle with the fact that I will also have to explain to my son when he grows up that his father died…he’s clueless now because he’s just two years old,so I guess for now I’m grieving on his behalf…I’m writing this because I’m looking for support I guess,because we weren’t together anymore I’m not exactly his widow am I?and we weren’t married either…but it doesn’t change the fact that we shared a life together,had a child together,loved each other at some point and were happy together at some point,none of these things can be erased or forgotten I feel…anyone with words of comfort or support,I would appreciate it greatly…
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