Making the Adjustment

Courtesy: Photographer in the Family
Courtesy: Photographer in the Family

Making the Adjustment

Last weekend I posted a column for Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother (yes, blatant plug here) about the reaction over a YouTube video called The First Moon Party.

Just to give you the gist…I mentioned how the video – meant to help sell a product, no argument – gives this mother/daughter relationship to the whole idea of a first period for girls and how they get the advice and this box of wonderful items to “help them transition” during their first period.

But at least one of my daughters didn’t get that.

So let me take that message a little further.

Another trend in the social media world is to extol the virtue of these wonderful parents who, dying of cancer or some other horrible disease, prep for their passing by putting together messages, napkins with phrases, videos and other amazing ideas made to make you cry.  That’s what they do, by the way, make you cry.  They are also supposed to make you think and prepare and – I guess – tell you a lesson about life about what you’re supposed to be doing for your kids and how you could go at any time.

Again . . . not helping me.

My wife, the woman you see up there in the photograph (Thank you, by the way, Photographer in the Family for all the old photos!) died suddenly.  There was no preparation.  She didn’t write notes on napkins.  She didn’t have time to even say goodbye.  Not to any of us.

So the lessons we get from their mother are the ones that are already there . . . ingrained, I hope, in the minds and the DNA of my children.  That’s all they have left.

So when my middle daughter had her first period . . . her older sister helped her with the mechanics of things like tampons and panty liners (because, let’s face it, Dad doing that is just weird) and her Dad goes to the store and buys them…washes the soiled underwear…and bemoans every single feminine hygiene commercial that shows butterflies and rainbows and calls them things like “sanitary napkins” because, by the time I get them…sanitary is the last thing they are.  There was the wonderful fact that my wife had helped my oldest daughter to know what to do about all this.  My middle has Dad.  (And sister, but Dad does all the purchasing, research and laundry.  Let’s face it)

But I carry this conundrum even farther.

My sons were seven when their mother died.  Just seven.  They don’t remember their eighth birthday because, being frank, it was just a couple weeks after they’d lost their mother.  It’s hard to enjoy the gaining of presents when you’ve lost something so precious.  So for those two boys the feminine presence in the house, though not parental by any stretch of the imagination, is their sisters.  No brother treats their sister like they’re being mothered by them.  Never.  Mine are no different.  There is more arguing with their middle sister than any other person in the home.  Their older sister holds sway over them when I’m not around, but just barely.

So the lessons in life come from Dad.  That’s it.  Sure, they have their aunts, Grandma, friends of our family . . . but they’re not daily influences.  They’re friends who flit into their lives and then are gone.  The daily, repeated influence that you absorb almost through osmosis just isn’t there.

So I cook.  I clean.  I bake.  I chase them around the house, I bark at them when they’re being bad and I tuck them in and read every night.  When they get hurt I’m there.  When they have a problem at school…I’m there.

Here’s the reality: even if tomorrow the most amazing, wonderful, beautiful, responsible, intelligent, sarcastic, musically-inclined, wry and strong woman walked into our lives . . . it wouldn’t make a difference.  She’s not their Mom.  Nobody is…nobody else will be.  They would be an influence, but they wouldn’t be that influence.

So when people ask why my kids are with my parents in the summer . . . it’s because they get the influence of a Mom…my mom (and my dad) every day.  Every minute.  It’s worked, too.  When they ask how we’re doing, the answer is we’re doing okay.  No…there’s no Mom.  There’s just . . . Dad.  But – if I say so myself – Dad is loving, kind, silly, musical, strange, funny, and he holds it together.

I miss what’s not there, that daily influence their mother had.  No, I can’t give them that.  I’m not as soft.  I have callouses on my fingers and hands from carrying stuff around and cleaning.  I ruin the occasional batch of laundry.  They don’t have their Mom, no.

But sometimes they have a Dad that can throw the football at the park, tackle them in the grass, then come inside and bake them cookies.

Yes…I see those internet memes, the Moms and Dads making amazing things knowing their time is short.  I’m here to tell you . . . for my kids time with their Mom already ran out.  I had nearly 20 years…my boys had seven.  We’re left with what we’d been given.  That didn’t mean we missed out because their Mom didn’t make videos or write letters, though.  It means . . . we had to adjust to life without her.

Sometimes you just have to make the adjustment.

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2 thoughts on “Making the Adjustment”

    1. You know, I really hadn’t thought much about it, but after “First Moon Party” I started getting promoted posts on social media for all the “Dying father makes videos” and “Mom creates lasting message during chemo” and I just realized we didn’t get any of that. We adjusted, though, and I’m sure you’ve faced your own version of that. Dealing with split parenting can’t be easy, but parenting you are and change/adjustment just have to be what you do. All the others that come in and out are influences, but not Mom or Dad. Those never change, whether in the home or not, Mom and Dad are constants. It’s like algebra.

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