Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Mother's Day, What Would You Like Us To Do?

“Can I have a word?” The soon-to-be nursery leader gently murmured to me this morning.

“Of course.” Was my glib reply, but I quickly ascertained this was to be a private word, rather than a quick public request for me to move or lift something, as usually happens as the regular dad on dropping off duties.

After drawing a blank on what the subject of this ‘word’, that more accurately was always going to be a few minutes of dialogue, while I waited for it, I have to admit to eventually being a little broadsided.

“Mother’s day is coming up.”

Indeed it is. Or it is in this country anyway.

I can remember having thoughts about this, perhaps a week ago, on my return walk from nursery. A mixture of letting them know my feelings, and also with the nursery leadership due to change over at the end of this term, thought it probably worthwhile sharing my general absent mommy mantra with the new regime.

It did not materialise any further, or even make it to my current to-do list. I was probably pre-occupied with planning for our weekend adventure.

But, while I tried to muster a retort, I was desperately trying to put on finger on those thoughts of a few days ago.

I was pleased that the nursery was asking, being a small place I probably expected them to, especially as my son has a growing appreciation of all going on around him, and will probably be asking more questions about it this year.

Since Samantha died I have not been consistent with dealing with Mother’s Day, or generated a fixed policy of where I stand on it, or how we should mark it.

When there has been an activity at our various play groups, or activities, rather than shy from them, we have always joined in. With me perhaps hoping that Max will be prompted to want to learn more about his mom, or about the much more difficult ‘where’ she is.

Whatever we have made for her I have kept, with thoughts of returning them to him when he is older, so he can keep them on her behalf, rather than me.

I do not subscribe in taking things to Samantha’s grave. Although that is where her ashes were interned, I certainly do not think of her as being ‘there’ and I hope that my boy continues to believe the same, without my direct influence I should add.

And I find rotting flowers, and worse still cards, that could have significant sentimental value if kept differently, slowly decaying and being destroyed by Mother Nature, sad on so many levels.

I did not get into this diatribe with my son’s nursery, instead insisting they should not be afraid of upsetting him, as it is his life, and there is no way around the fact that he lost his mother at just seven months old.

All the other children will be encouraged to make cards, and I do not see why he can not also enjoy that process, even thought his recipient has no earthly address.

We discussed making the cards for someone else, like a grandparent, but I think that is dangerous ground too.

On some levels, probably the toddler one, this sends the message that in someway his mother is being replaced by another woman in his family. And however unconscious and passive that message is, it is not one I am keen on.

I shall be discussing it with him, so he knows what is coming at nursery, reiterating my current plan, the-safe-keeping-for-later approach, and see where that gets us.

I have also reasurred the nursery that withstanding my brief they can do no wrong, as sadly these are situations he will inevitably have to deal with.

Shying from, or special treatment because of them, is a whole book of no-no-nadder in my brain’s library.

The leader in waiting is also now fully briefed on a first-person basis on how I generally tackle the questions of where Mommy is, and how I tend to comfort her boy when he gets upset.

I tell him she is always in his heart and mind, and whatever he does, or gets up to, she shares and basks in. She will always be part of him, if not physically in our lives.

He is only to close his eyes and she is there, right in front of him.

And if he is not sure of any of that, or just wants to know more about her, he just needs to open his mouth.

Someone will always only be to willing to share the wonderment of his amazing mother. Share/Save/Bookmark


Kat said...

Tearing up here.

Yummy Mammy said...

Personally speaking, I think he should still make a card and celebrate the day, but it should be you getting the card and present. You are his Mum and Dad all rolled into one, and doing a great job of it.

Jen said...

My cousins mum died when they were small and my mum became the daytime and after school carer because their dad had to work. When we made Mother's Day cards etc they would always make them for my mum, but it would be "happy mothers day aunty _, thanks you". Or something along those lines.
Never did anyone suggest their mum was being replaced, rather we would speak about her when people asked and my mum would entertain with some hilarous stories of when they were growing up! But it did mean they got a chance to thank the matriarch in their lives, and still thanked their dad on fathers day.
I think you're right not to worry about it too much, or to prescribe what should be done. When he's older he might want to do something different to mark the day, and that will be up to him. Maybe you should tell me a story about his mum?

Laura - Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? said...

my mum died when I was 9 and mothers day was always difficult. I personally had no problem with others doing activities and was happy to join in. It was others who had the problem - 'Do you want to make a card for your Grandma?' they would ask which I always thought odd.

In years gone by my sister and I have met up on the day a big family Sunday lunch and just been together, nothing maudling, just a happy family occasion.

Dave said...

I think you're handling it right - better than I would have done in your shoes. Let him join in the activities of card-making etc Making and keeping whatever he makes safe for later is the right thing.

Chairman Bill said...

I'm not sure how old your boys is, but if he's say 3 or 4 and your mem-sahib died when he was seven months, I doubt he misses her to the extent you do, as she was absent for the greater part of his life.

The temptation is to think kids feel time the same way we do, but it's all relative. A year is an aeon for a child - and time is a great healer. Kids make more of time than we do and thus heal faster.

SciFi Dad said...

I cannot imagine what you are going through, but from where I stand I think you're doing a great job given the circumstances. I don't know if I could handle it as well.

T said...


Ian, you are exactly who that boy needs. You're doing a great job from what I can see right here.

rosiescribble said...

What a powerful post, I well up every time I read your blog, my heart goes out to you both. You are doing a wonderful job and I admire you greatly for it.

Bee and Rose said...

Simply beautiful. Of course he should make things for his mother. I think that is so incredibly healthy. You are an amazing soul, SPD:) Your boy is truly lucky.

Penelope said...

I know that I have said this before but I really do admire your attitude so much. I have the exact same feelings about graves, or shrines of any sort in fact and think it is wonderful that Max is being taught that Sam is right there inside and beside him.
Good for you Ian - you really do never cease to inspire me :o)

Tony said...

Let me just say that it is refreshing to get your take on this situation.

A blogger that I read once commented on a post of mine that his child's daycare provider intentionally didn't talk about "Daddies" because one girl in the class didn't know her father.

I know that your situation or this child's situation can't be easy on a child, but I don't understand how sweeping it under the rug is the answer.

I applaud the daycare in either situation for talking to the single parent about how to handle it, but surely there are better ways to deal with it.

notSupermum said...

I work in a primary school and we do have to tread carefully when it's coming up to Mothers' and Fathers' days. Different families have different ideas on what their children should do, and so we have to speak to parents of children who may not have two parents, or indeed any (children in care) that they can give a card to.

You sound like you're doing a great job in explaining things to your son. Hope that doesn't sound too patronising. I loved your post, very emotional.

Mama Nabi said...

I think you are right - Max should join in and make a card for his mother. Although, I think it'll harder for you, really, than it will be for him on that day... *hugs*

Xbox4NappyRash said...

I just can't imagine. I would have been rendered useless by the leader's comment.

Anonymous said...

Hi - we are not religious but my daughter has always seemed to get something out of a 'ceremony' we adopted on my mum's birthday of letting a balloon go with a message attached to it. When she was younger it was just kisses and a drawing.

Sandiegogal2000 said...

As a single mom to a beautiful girl I adopted I run into this problem with Fathers day. She is in preschool and they are always making things for parents for those special days. I let my daughter decide who she will give the gift too. Since she is four she doesn't always understand but in time I think she will. She either gives them too her godfather or to her grandfather. it depends on who she is feeling closer too. keep up what ever you think is going to be right for your child.

Split-Second Single Father said...

You have very eloquently stated almost exactly what I have told my daughter about her mother, who passed when our daughter was 3.

On Mother's Day here in the US, we go to church as we do every week, then usually head down to the beach. It's a fun time for her and I can balance playing with her with quietly reflections of her mommy.

Keep being honest with your son. He'll respect that more than anything else as he grows older.

Zoeyjane said...

I know it's not the same thing, but growing up, I was always just given the same opportunity to craft (or bake or write) for a mom that was missing and usually, I just afforded the gifts to the most important person in my world at the time. Often my mother's mom, or my dad, or a female family friend. I never thought of them as a replacement, whatsoever, and it made the holiday more about an expression of love, than specifically love to a mom.

But that's just me.

Solo-Dad said...

I agree with you about not replacing his Mum with another stand-in-card-recipient. I gently disagree with those who suggest that you should be receiving said card/gift. Yes, you're the solo-parent; you always will be in some respect. But in time, Max will develop his own persona/relationship with his Mum. It will be on his own terms. He'll make her memory into what it must become for him. Others -Grandparents, significant others, etc.- only muddy the water in that regard. Chin up, Ian. We've got your back albeit at a distance.

MindyMom said...

I think you are doing a great job and handling the situation perfectly. I like the idea of him making a card like the other students will be so not to feel left out or "different". No "earthly address" is required for making a mother's day card.

Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

That little boy is so lucky to have such a fabulous dad.
You have handled it so well and he will really appreciate that as he gets older.
Really thoughtful post x

Single Parent Dad said...

Kat - I know my blog should come with tissues sometimes.

Yummy Mammy - I like the sentiment, but like I have said, I am still not a replacement.

Jen - Did they still make cards for their own mother? I think it is nice to acknowledge the work of, and the love for others.

Laura - It seems that way doesn't it? I think in this case it is more a problem, and uncomfortable for others rather than us.

Dave - Thanks.

Chairman Bill - He's 4 and I know you are correct. But without making him feel bad, I want him to understand, as best he can, that he started life with two loving parents.

SciFi Dad - Thank you.

T - Thanks.

Rosie - And it is appreciated.

Bee and Rose - Some people would put ass in front of that you know?

Penelope - You can leave lovely comments like that as many times as you want.

Tony - Totally. While a sledgehammer approach need not be the best way, pussy-footing is as bad, if not worse.

notSupermum - The PC world that we live in.

Mama Nabi - The day had never really worried me. I take it as an opportunity really.

Xbox - As I started the sentence that way, the content didn't worry me.

Anonymous - That sounds nice, will be interested to see what, if any, yearly rituals we come up with.

Sandiegogal2000 - It really is a case-by-case thing. And it is good to be in control of these things and have a theory.

Split-Second - Eloquence is something I have to really work on. Thanks for sharing.

Zoeyjane - And it is great that you remember it that way.

Solo Dad - I agree. If he does want to make me a card on mother's day, that is fine, but it will be an additional one.

MindyMom - Thank you.

Tara - Thanks for your lovely comment.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

An incredibly emotional post and yet a beautiful read. I can't begin to imagine how hard this time must be but you seem to be handling it so well. God Bless.

CJ xx

Captain Dumbass said...

I think you're doing a great job.

Lola said...

I think you're handling it perfectly. Our Dad died when I was two and my brother was six months, so we had to deal with this issue in school.

I certainly don't remember how it was handled in nursery school, but in the older grades I remember making him cards. It wasn't a big deal for me. That's just the way things were. My brother was very sensitive, and it would bother him a lot more.

Our mother used to bring us to the cemetary all the time, and I hated it. I never felt like my Dad was "there," and I grew up not wanting to visit graves at all. I always thought that I could just talk to him anywhere, anytime, and that helped me. When I would do bad things, I would look at his picture in my room and say, "Sorry about that, Dad. I'll try to do better." Come to think of it, I still do that, and I'm 43.

Jen said...

No, they didn't make cards for their own Mum, but we would normally visit the grave at sometime near mothers day and put flowers on it. They were aware though that their Mum was with them whatever they did, so visiting the grave was, in a way, more for my mum and their dad.

phenomenalmama said...

I think you're doing the right thing by making "honesty the best policy". It's hard to do sometimes, when all we want to do is protect our children from hurt, but I think the hurts wil be less in the long run.

Kudos to you.

Melissa said...

Ian, you're a brilliant mum AND dad and I think you are doing the right thing. What are you to do, pull Max out of school each year at Mother's day? He will have to face it as you say and better to start now when he is young. I'm sure it is difficult for his teacher to know just what to say or do in such a sensitive situation but she did the right thing by speaking with you.

Liz@Violet Posy said...

Difficult one I agree. I guess it's best to ask Max what he wants to do? I think I'd go with whatever makes him comfortable, little ones tend to have their own ideas on all these issues after the age of 3.


darcie said...

He's lucky to have you - All kids could be so lucky to have a dad as great as you are -


What a poignant post and one that is close to my heart. My dad died when I was 5 and I spent my primary school days missing him and thinking I was different. But Father's day was a day to remember him as well as his birthday and all other celebrations. I used the occasion to celebrate his memory. It was a day when everyone cared, while the rest of the year it would be forgotten. You can only do your best and what you have done is right for cementing memories, sharing and building courage x

Dee said...

Reading this was difficult for me because I lost my father at the age of 10 and had to endure all of the "father" events without him. It wasn't easy and it always made me sad and made me miss my father even more. I always felt like the odd one out during father times because everyone else had a daddy to share these things with.

I think you're a very special father and you remind me in many ways of my mother...always trying to do the absolute best thing for your little one. You're doing the right thing by including him in these events and one day he will be very appreciative for all of your thoughtfulness and effort.

I have a very tender heart for children who have lost a parent and also for the parent left behind because it's not easy for them watching their children suffer due to events beyond their control. Even though it can't possibly be easy for you, you seem to have a great head on your shoulders and your little boy is one lucky fellow. May God bless the two of you abundantly.

Apple Island Wife said...

You read an awful lot of shit on the web, and an awful lot of shit in mothers and fathers day cards too, some of which I write. My Other Half seems to be able to always think of something quite simple and touching, which is most uncharacteristic, but I love him for it. Anyway, these posts about mother's day and father's day, make up for some of the shit.
I agree with Yummy Mammy. They should make both cards for you, as you're both rolled into one.

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