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.