On Opportunities and Being a Parent

I guess this is going to be a theme around here for a while.

When you step back and look at the whole forest that is life, I guess this is something of a theme all around us all the time, for everyone.

The girls have been very emotional the last two days. Little things set them off. And I don’t blame them.

Yesterday Rainbow Pony was drawing a picture for her mommy and wanted to make an envelope to put it in. The roll of paper was coming undone and the scissors wouldn’t cut quite right and she just couldn’t remember what the next step was and it was all very upsetting. She threw the paper down and sat on the craft room floor and cried. Her shoulders slumped forward and her head dropped and she just cried. I don’t think she really knew why she felt so sad, but she did.

This morning Bug forgot her goggles for swimming day at school. The school has other goggles and she doesn’t really need them anyway, but today the idea of forgetting her own goggles was just too much to take. She cried and cried at the door of her classroom. She couldn’t bring herself to walk into the classroom and, once she did, she reached her hand out to me like she was drowning under the weight of it all. And that is probably exactly how she felt.

Just two days ago we found out that our dog, Jasmine, isn’t going to be around much longer. She is part of our family in every sense of the word and this has had a heavy impact on all of us. As hard as this is on Holly and me, we are the adults and have the tools and perspective to process what we are feeling. Our daughters don’t. They haven’t experienced loss yet in their young lives. They don’t really get it.

It’s our job as their parents to help them through this.

There is nothing more natural than death. All of us have and will experience death over and over throughout our lives. And it’s never easy. As omnipresent as it is, the permanency and physical absence that death lays on those of us left behind changes us and moves us to emotion that we struggle to process.

There is no indifference to death. There is no getting used to death.

For children, this burden is weighted further by a lack of understanding and an inability to contextualize what they are feeling. We have talked with the girls about death before this and tried to explain it in terms they can understand, but how do you explain forever? They may be able to put their thoughts into words, but what children can’t hold on to tends to float away. The theoretical world doesn’t work for them. It’s like trying to explain infinity.

These feelings that they can’t escape and can’t explain, then, manifest in ways they do understand. Rainbow Pony couldn’t make the envelope. Bug forgot her goggles. They get that. The emotion that becomes attached to those things within their grasp then becomes the outlet for the river of unexplainable sadness associated with the impending loss of their furry sister.

We can’t take that sadness away from them anymore than we can take the cancer away from our dog. What we can do is help them through their suffering just like we can help Jasmine through hers.

Yes, this is going to suck. And, yes, we can make it all right.

Holly said this morning that, in a very strange way, there is a gift in all of this, a gift for those of us left behind. We have the opportunity to say goodbye. We have the chance to sit with Jas and talk to her and rub her butt and not take one more second for granted. We can be very conscious of the gift that this dog has been to all of us. We can be present with her and be reminded to appreciate all of the gifts in our lives. The people, the animals, the cool autumn mornings, the sand between our toes, the music, the smell of home-cooked meals, the warm showers, everything.

We can ease her suffering as the days go on and teach our daughters about selfless love. We can show them that our time here is limited and that every second is precious. We can tell them stories about her and let them know that a loved one never really leaves you completely, that even when the physical is gone, the memories are still there. And slowly and with our help, our daughters will be able to put all of this in terms that they can understand.

The tears and the anger and the confusion are going to come. And Jasmine is going to get worse. As parents, Holly and I have the responsibility – and the opportunity – to help them all through it, to hold them and love them and tell them it is all going to be ok even when we don’t feel like it is.

There’s a lot to this life. And there is a lot to being a parent. It isn’t always easy or pretty and sometimes it hurts. Through it all, though, I am grateful for the opportunities.

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About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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3 Responses to On Opportunities and Being a Parent

  1. Carol Brown says:

    Lots of wisdom in this one. You may want/need to go back and read it to yourself several times in the months ahead.

  2. I found you via Wolf Pascoe and have enjoyed my time reading here… I am sorry to hear about Jasmine, and wanted to write and share my appreciation for the strength, wisdom, and vulnerability you share in this post in particular.

    Best to you and your family….

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