Thursday, 9 July 2009

Bringing Down the House, or Beer Garden

Social acceptance, in our relatively new rural setting, has been something of immense importance to me, and us.

I have given gravitas to carrying favour with the nice families around us, not least because I want my son to have a happy social existence, filled with children, and with the absence of the planned siblings (there would have been at least one, and I was angling for two) I need others to want to be around us in order to procure such a regular reality.

When I take a step back on our lives, and more specifically Max’s, and have a look, I see that we now have a lot of ‘new’ people we interact with.

Not something I have ever considered a strength – making chums - but it appears that I have managed to convince quite a few mugs to spend time with us.

My son’s charm and entertainment value have played an enormous part in this, as has, I suppose, my openness to shiny new folk.

Junior is very sociable, and always asking where, or who, we are going to see next.

He does not keep an exclusive company, and I am proud to observe that he is much more open to playing with members of the opposite sex than some of his peers.

This, in part, may be down to our situation, and that he feels a need to be less choosy, but it is a trait that I like to see in him.

Last week, after a successful nursery sports day, we were invited to join a girl from the school, and some of her family, at one of the local pubs, that has excellent outdoor facilities for the children.

In the glorious weather, we were more than delighted to accept.

The people that had invited us are great company, and have always lived on or around farms in this area, so they know it well.

For those reasons, they are also very useful to know.

It is a nice feeling to be accepted by folks like this, especially when we were joined by a few of their extended family.

They must not be fussy either, right?

Meeting new people can be exhausting, and especially emotionally zapping when we are called on to explain our situation.

Totally worth it though, and I love people that ask questions, taking it as a great sign, I am much more likely to get on in the long-term with someone prepared to ask questions that might trigger difficult answers, than those that ignore them.

That typed, I have not really developed a formula, or stock answer, for questions about becoming a widower, or where my wife is.

You can see it coming sometimes, or feel it brewing, but still, I am inconsistent, yet always honest, with my replies.

On this occasion I dangerously assumed that the adults that joined us knew of our situation, and as the conversation went in certain ways, I knew, that they knew.

However the same was not true for the children.

And kids ask questions too.

I suppose the sight of a floppy haired man with his son, versus a backdrop of women with their offspring, induces a certain train of thought.

That train being; “Where is your mom?”

Again, this is a situation I like to encourage, I am interested in how my son reacts to these queries, and also if there is anything to learn from either parties’ behaviour.

Not sure if I could hear the sharp intakes of breath, but ears definitely pricked up. I was comfortable than no one tried to interfere, or apologise.

My matter-of-fact protégé offered his simply explanation; “She died.”

Interestingly, well for me anyway, the other children, then asked me to clarify, almost double-checking that they were not being lied to.

After my re-affirmation, that indeed, such information was correct, they returned to my unruffled boy for further explanations.

Pointing to his heart and mind, my wonderful creation said “She is in here and in Daddy’s too.”

Ignoring everyone else for a moment, I asked Max how he gets to see his mom, and he replied, as expected, with “I just close my eyes and think.”

I then suddenly became acutely aware we had stirred a lot of emotion around us, and seeing that my son was OK, I assured him he was right, and opted for a bit of silence and composure.

Silence which was broken with; “Oh, Daddy, we can also dream about her.”

That really finished them off.

But it was not long before tranquillity returned, and conversation moved on, acknowledging what had just happened, but without dwelling on it.

These moments are enormously emotional, and personally, I feel a vast array of emotions, for myself, for my boy, for Samantha and for those around us.

I hope my son’s future is full of bringing people to tears in beer gardens, but, perhaps, by very different means.



smitten by britain said...

Reaching for the tissues now.

Badass Geek said...

You are blessed with your child. Truly.

Hot Cross Mum said...

Hurray for Max, I say (I have a Max too so already think he is cool!) You will undoubtedly face far too many of these situations in your lives, but he will one day, maybe in that same beer garden, buy you a pint and you'll realise just how far you have both come. In the meantime, one step at a time.

Working Mum said...

That post certainly brought me to tears. It's good that you are finding friends that understand your situation and are welcoming you both into your new neighbourhood. Your boy is travelling a difficult journey at the moment, but he has you to guide him and give him the confidence to speak about his mother in this way. You must be very proud of how far you've both come together.

Kori said...

You are blessed in your son AND your friends, of that I have no doubt.

Kevin Spencer said...

I must say, that was quite the blog post. Max is an amazing child.

Dora said...

Magnificent post. You are doing a wonderful job keeping Samantha's memory alive and teaching Max these invaluable social skills. Thank you for sharing this.

Yummy Mammy said...


I had a conversation the other day about what is viewed as "normal" where kids are concerned. I would never view my own situation as normal and I suppose you wouldn't either with yours, but the kids just seem to take it in their stride and shock us all with how they deal with things.

You've got a great little fella there - any chance I could reserve him as a future prospect for my daughter ;-)

Avitable said...

It's great that your son can view death in such a grown-up way. I was almost 30 before I realized that my great-grandfather wasn't really at a farm where he'd have more room to play.

Erin said...

ok firstly I have to say, since I'm from over here, YOU HAVE PUBS WITH KIDS FACILITIES??!!I am soooo moving to your part of the world.
now that i've got that off my chest, I will say that this is the one that brought the tear. I have a similar situation too complex to explain on a comment but, I understand some of this - I say 'some'... I can't possibly understand losing the love of my life so young. But I do know what it is like to have awkward moments when the kids in the hood ask, "Where is your dad Claire?" It breaks my heart although I try not to let her know.
BTW.. we also have new rural surroundings. We have lots in common which is why I love your blog!

Crash Course Widow said...

It's always good for me to hear how Anna's peers--and my peers--handle this delicate question. We're still rarely around people who DON'T know our situation, so we haven't run across it much...yet. I'm always curious how or when Anna mentions it on her own, particularly to other kids. Her preschool teacher never told me at the time when the incidents happened (she told me later at a parent/teacher conference, after I asked), but apparently Anna would occasionally mention her daddy and/or that he died (or that he "cwashed into a po'") at her preschool...usually when daddies were mentioned, I assume. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for many of those moments. I'm ever so curious how Anna--and everyone else, grownups and kids alike--react. Anna's very matter-of-fact about the whole death/dead thing too, like Max.

Hugs to you both!

SandyCalico said...

Max sounds wonderful. You really should have a tissue warning at the start of each post. I would rate this as a three tissue post x

The Dotterel said...

Of even four (*sniff*). But to be serious, what a well-adjusted attitude to an enormous loss. Credit to you, Ian. Such things don't merely happen.

Kat said...

Your son is such a gem.

Kerrie said...

Darling boy ((((((Max)))))). How proud you must be Ian. Give yourself a bit of kudos here too. He listens and learns from you.

I love the utter (often disarming) honesty of children. When I first met Myles (John's youngest son who was just 9 at the time) we went in search of an errant kite. While walking he told me that when he first saw me he thought I was his brought me undone. Even now at 13 years old he is very matter of fact when asked that question. It's amazing how many adults aren't comfortable with the answer.

You have a beautiful boy there...I know you know that but it's good to be told.

rosiescribble said...

You're doing a great job and Max is amazing. You seem to deal with difficult questions well. I'm on my own with IJ and have yet to formulate any answers to the question Why. I suppose it's more normal for mums to be on their own but the time will come when questions are asked, sooner rather than later. It's such a worry that any answer given will be psychologically damaging in some way although children seem to be more accepting of the circumstances they find themselves in. I sometimes think it is the adults who have more questions. Although it is the kids who need the answers. For me it's between me and IJ and no-one else.

A rambling comment I know!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

A lot of your posts bring tears to my eyes because I can't even begin to understand how difficult it may be for you sometimes. I have an old friend who's wife passed about six years ago during child-birth and he spent a few years completely devastated and unable to look after his new born child. Now, however, he is happier than he's been for a long time and his two beautiful children are happy too.

I guess we have to educate those around us from an early age about the bad things in life, and make them realise that there are many wonderful moments too, just like I do with autism.

CJ xx

SciFi Dad said...

That was beautiful, Ian. You are clearly doing a stellar job with Max.

Catherine said...

What a great little guy!

My other half Richard and I shall be coming on Hadrian's Walk next year so I'm just glancing through everyone's blogs, and thought I'd say hi. Yours is the only one that's had me dabbing at my eyes with my sleeve so far though...

T said...

Whew. *lump in the throat*

Dang. You're raising quite the kid there.

And I LOVE that you're so open to socializing and being COMPLETELY honest about who you are, who Max is and your situation.

You're real, Ian. I dig that about you.

clareybabble said...

What a moving post. I don't know how you do it but you handle your situation brilliantly, judging from what I read on your blog. Max is very lucky to have you, and vice versa.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Blimey you are an amazing team you two, or you three really. I love that Max knows he will always have his Mummy close. I'm sure he will have a life time of adjustment as he realises what both he and you have lost, but I've no doubt he'll get through it because of the way you and your family have been so open and honest with him.

I hope that my two are never afraid to ask questions when they need to, and you're right, we adults are not always so good at it. And I know it's not the same, but when E lost her Grampy at 5, we told her a similar thing. That her Grampy had gone to heaven and was safe now. Miss M was just 6 months at the time but she still knows about her Grampy as whenever anything or anyone close passes away, E always says that they've gone to Grampy. Poor Grampy is probably covered in cats, dogs and gerbils, but I think he's smiling too.

Hugs. (Whether you like them or not.)

Single Parent Dad said...

Smitten - I should probably issue them free with my blog.

Badass Geek - I agree.

Hot Cross Mum - Thanks for that vision.

Working Mum - It is good, and thanks.

Kori - And you are wise not too.

Kevin - He is a belter.

Dora - She is alive in all he does.

Yummy Mammy - Exactly, what is normal?

Avitable - Not entirely sure he understands all he says, but he wouldn't be convinced by the farm story.

Erin - They do, with bells on.

Crash Course Widow - I'm like that, not around many adults that don't know our circumstance, but children are different.

SandyCalico - A tissue rating? Not a bad plan.

The Dotterel - Thank you.

Kat - He is.

Kerrie - Very. And I love matter of fact too.

Rosie - Thank you. But while these questions are emotionally difficult, they are quite clean to answer, and easy to explain. Not so for you and others.

CJ - Absolutely. One of things I do 'enjoy' is when I see our situation having a positive impact on others.

SciFi Dad - I does me bestest.

Catherine - Thank you, sorry our introductions have been tear inducing. Promise it will only be me crying on that walk.

T - Thank you, I like you too.

Clareybabble - Thank you.

Jo Beau - Thank you. And I don't mind hugs, was just trying to impress Dan.

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