I always answer truthfully. Four. I have 4 children. I answer that way, because for me there is no other way to answer. But that's not true for all bereaved mothers. This is a commonly asked question on grief forums. "When someone asks how many children you have, what do you say?" For me, there really is only one answer, but to many, the potential follow up questions make this answer more difficult. Inevitably, this question is followed by one asking ages or if you have boys or girls. I have a standard answer for that too. My oldest son is 13, I have 12 and 9 year old daughters, and my youngest son would be 7 this year, but he passed away at 2 1/2. Too much information? Maybe. For some, certainly. But for me, this works. This is my truth. And if I'm not honest about this, I'm not being true to myself. If I want to go into more detail, I do. And those days that I can't, I don't. But I ALWAYS have four children.
Four. I parent them all. My teenager gives me his best attention on car rides when it's just the two of us. He flips his hair to the side incessantly, and his stomach is currently a bottomless pit. He's discovering what it means to learn what kind of person he wants to be. We have countless discussions about the importance of being a good person, and what traits will serve him well later in life.
My 12 year old daughter is a ball of sarcasm and wit. She also has a beautiful, giving heart. She's anxious as she grows and changes and asks questions about life and what her body is going through at almost a constant rate. She's inquisitive, and thoughtful. She makes me pull my hair out, and she has me watching in awe most days as she discovers yet another activity in which she's interested.
My 9 year old....she's broken. Her best friend died and changed her middle child status. She's often confused and lonely. She has beautiful blue eyes and a smile that's incredibly contagious. She's loveable and reads constantly. She's my baking buddy, and my cuddler. I try to be a safe place for her to land when the pain becomes more than her little 9 year old heart can bear.
And there's my baby. I parent him, too. And let me tell you, there is nothing on this earth harder than parenting a child you had to give back. I wonder daily what he's up to. Is he taller? Does he still have my curls? Did he take up baseball like his brother or is he an actor like his sister? Who are his friends? Did he learn to ride a bike? I want to know what size shoe he wears, and if he knows how to tie them yet.
See, when you lose a child, you don't just lose them in that moment. You don't just miss out on that time in his life. You lose him every single day, over and over again. You lose his milestones and your dreams for him. You lose his giggles, and his scraped knees. You lose his finger paintings, and his dandelion bouquets. You lose little pieces of yourself, slowly. Each day more is chipped away as you try to find ways to function. People can see the functioning part, but they can't always see the pieces that fall away. But it's happening. Every day is something new, and it's a sentence that lasts a lifetime.
Tomorrow is International Bereaved Mother's Day. If you know a mother who parents a child she can no longer hold, let her know you're thinking of her. Give her that day. She'll be chipping away the pieces she loses that day, just like any other, and a kind word from you could go a long way. Acknowledgement of our children and our continued quest to parent them means more than anything.
Four. I have four...