Parenting After Loss: In Our House, We Do Things Differently

Friday, August 26, 2016

Parenting After Loss: In Our House, We Do Things Differently

When walking into our house, you may have noticed the stickers all over the wall. Truthfully, the whole place looks like a cyclone hit it, most of the time. I try my hardest to keep up with the constant flow of motion a toddler creates but I'm not always successful. My teenaged son doesn't help, leaving his multiple art projects and science experiments strewn about.

Now, I don't sit passively by and allow my children to destroy our home, but I am on the more lenient side when it comes to allowing them space to express themselves.

Because in our house, we do things differently.

I am grateful for the noise and chaos. After Beatrix died, our house was so quiet. I came home to a subdued eight year old who wasn't the baby any longer, but who was still the baby of the house. He clung to me. We quietly spoke about his baby sister, and we didn't make messes.

Slowly, over time, joy took hold again and we embraced childish exuberance. My boy grew and as he grew, the hard memories were softened by the passage of time. Eventually a new baby sibling was born, and while she could never replace what we had lost, she was just what we needed to heal our broken hearts.

In this healing, we embraced a new way of looking at things. We began to do things differently.

We stopped worrying about things like whether there were stickers on our walls, or whether the one-day science project turned into a week-long experiment which took up half the dining room table. Our older children probably wonder what happened -- where did these parents come from, who allow their siblings to use the wall under the stairs as a giant chalkboard, and who leave small messes so babies can "finish" what they're doing tomorrow?

The other day, I posted this picture on Facebook:

And captioned it thus:

Strong language warning:

I used to see cars with stickers all over the insides of their windows, and I would say, "I'm never letting my kid do that."

Then we lost Beatrix, and the things which seemed so important in terms of looking like I had all my sh*t together, in terms of child-rearing the "right" way, didn't matter anymore.

M is covering my kitchen cabinet with princess stickers.

And that's just fine with me.

You know why?

Because Beatrix isn't.

And this is the crux of the matter: we do things differently in our house, because we are different. We've lost a child. Each breath that our living children take is a celebration- we know what things look like from the other side: the regrets over lost time, the regrets over things said and done... or left unsaid and undone. We don't want to live a life of regrets when it comes to our surviving children.

Does this mean they run the household, or that our home is a constant hub of disorder? No. There are boundaries. But we choose limitations wisely:

Is the offense really serious enough to leave us regretful should something happen?

Are the words coming out of our mouths the last thing we would want our children to hear from us?

Is their action something which could cause them to stumble (lose a job, hurt a loved one, end up in trouble) once they're out in the real world?

Is it worth filling the short time we have parenting them, with recriminations?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then we let it go...... and life is better because of it. We aren't so worried about what the neighbors think, and if our friends don't like our way of life, well, they can leave.

Because in our house, we do things differently.

We do them differently because we lost our Beatrix, and we know the pain of regret over actions not taken.

But -- we also do things differently, because we have a flesh and blood boy and girl here, and we have the opportunity to live our life with them, with fewer regrets. I can live with stickers on my walls, and sidewalk chalk all over the driveway. Not only can I live with it, I relish them. They are signs that a living, breathing child lives here.

A child lives here. Where once, a child did not.

How could we not do things differently?

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