Monday, April 9, 2012

"I'm sad about you dying."


Sometimes I'll grab Steve's arm in the middle of some domestic moment, and say earnestly: "Can you believe we MADE these little people?  You and me?  That is so effing cool."

When they were babies, I would stare at their sleeping beings and think: We made something that breathes?  Poops? Cries? 

But as they've gotten older, the miracle expands exponentially.  They are tiny packages of ideas, interests, idiosyncrasies...and my head wants to explode from watching how cool that is.  Watching them form and become these incredible human beings in front of my eyes.


Andrew's personality seemed prone towards dishonesty, and not because of negative reasons: He loves people so much, cares so much about them - so if he knew something would make them sad, it was difficult for him to tell them.  He hates disappointing people.  

Had we punished him when he admitted something to us, he could have quickly developed a lying pattern to avoid that disappointment.  We saw that early on.

Our major goal with him was to create a safe place for honesty.  When he told "difficult truths" to us, he could never-ever-ever get in trouble.  Steve and I vehemently agreed on that.  

I didn't care what he'd broken or done, if he told me the truth, I'd crouch down and look him right in the eyes: "Thank you, Andrew, for being a man of integrity. I'll bet that was hard to talk about."  

In the last year or so, we've really seen him identify with being a Man of Integrity.  He finds a lot of pride and honor in telling the truth, which might be one of my greatest parenting triumphs to date. 


We've talked a lot about death in these last few months, starting with losing my Mikey in January, and then three Stage-4 cancer diagnoses in our circle.

The kids knew we were driving back to Chicago to see Aunt Robin because she had pancreatic cancer, because we weren't sure how she'd be feeling when we were there this summer.   The kids adore her so much, we wanted them to have a lot of time with her when she was still feeling well.

We told them we'd answer any question they'd have, and they could talk to Robin about anything.  But: "Let's not talk about dying with her." 

We spent an amazing Friday evening with her.  No matter what happens down the road, with such uncertainty about the cancer prognosis, that night meant a lot to me - watching her with my children.  I love how much love Robin has given to them, and how many memories they have of her.  She has meant so much to our family.

It was my sweet Andrew, the one who struggled in his earlier years with dishonesty, who leaned over to her and whispered in her ear: "I'm sad about you dying."

He also told Robin, "My dad cried about you dying." And: "We planned this trip just to see you."  All things I might have advised him not to say, but you know what?  He was right.  Those things should be said to someone we love.

Andrew taught me something that night:  That these little persons you make?  Sometimes know a hell of a lot more about things than you do. 

And that in my complicated lessons to him about integrity - speaking truth, but then other times watering it down - he had to say what he felt. 

I think that honesty was probably more refreshing for Robin than things we could have said to her.  Children's purity is pretty profound.

My favorite part of that, even, is how he leaned in to whisper it to her.  That regardless of what his parents had said about it, he needed to speak the truth to her.  

My little man of integrity.  I was wrong in trying to edit that. 

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