Finally, after weeks and weeks of schedule conflicts, I was able to go to my men’s group this evening and was surprised, taken aback, and finally thankful for the topic of discussion: death and grieving.
We talked about different experiences we’ve had with death and especially about how children deal with the loss of a parent and how we as other parents in the community can help them and the surviving spouse, validating their own feelings without dictating how we believe they should be behaving, and helping them get through their personal experiences.
(my comment about “how we believe they should be behaving” refers to well-meaning, but inappropriate comments like “I’m sure you must feel terrible about the loss of your Mom” and other projections of emotions onto other people. Different people — and different kids — handle grief differently. Supportive means “I miss your Mom.” not “I’m sure you miss your Mom.”)
The topic that most resonated with me, however, was one that Linda and I talk about once a year: who would raise our children if we died?
I guess it’s a bit morbid, but as a loving parent, I think it’s my responsibility to plan for all possible scenarios to ensure that my children have the best possible childhood and life. Death’s not morbid, after all, just part of the journey of life and, depending on your views, another rung on the ladder or revolution on the circle of life.
If one of us dies, then the other can carry on raising the children, hopefully with some sort of help (a live-in grandparent? An au pair? Another single parent who would merge families?). Not easy, and emotionally I’m sure it’d be devastating – something I don’t really even want to contemplate, honestly – but still, not as bad for the kids as if the unthinkable happened and both Linda and I were killed or died.
We talk about our different friends and family members, asking ourselves whether we believe they could create an environment for our children that would be true to our own philosophies, values, beliefs, outlook, and so on.
Even mundane issues like their approach of discipline are a big topic in this annual conversation because I’d rather come back from the dead than know that my kids are going to a household where they’d be hit, spanked or otherwise physically disciplined for bad behavior. That’s just not in our value-set and not something I want my children to ever experience.
Then there’s the issue of “energy level”: it’s one heck of a job to keep up with three young, healthy, creative kids, and as the years go past, they’ll doubtless be more self-contained, but more active too. Saying that a grandparent could step in if we weren’t around is clearly folly in that regard; they’re exhausted just watching us run around with the kids, they wouldn’t survive a week! 🙂
And then we kind of stall out. Who would we trust to continue on our holiest, most important life mission, raising our children into self-confident, happy adults?
How does your family wrestle with this topic?