Thursday, May 14, 2009

The unavoidable question, "How many kids to you have?"

I thought I might spend some time reflecting on things we have experienced and learned this past year since Charlie passed. Alot happens within a family after the passing of a loved one, and I thought that sharing my thoughts with others could help all of us figure some things out. You're thoughts and comments are much appreciated throughout this process.
I guess I'll start with the unavoidable question, "How many kids do you have?"
This question comes up frequently and in many different circumstances. I've noticed that there's not necessarily one right answer; that I have to feel out the situation and make a quick guess as to how much information is necessary. Of course, as Charlie's mother, I feel like I could never leave him out. Really, I don't mind telling a complete stranger all about Charlie, and in fact, I enjoy talking about him and I appreciate questions. The only thing I don't really like is the sympathy that goes along with it. I would prefer to talk about Charlie in a "as-a-matter-of-fact" manner; as if what I had to say was interesting but not shocking.
If you're lost in what I'm talking about, I "normal" conversation about my children sounds like this:
"So, how many kids do you have?" or "Is Aubrey you're only child?"
"I have Aubrey, and my son, Charlie passed away last year."
Or "I have two" which always leads to:
"So where's the other one?"
Once basically explained, I get:
"Oh! I am so sorry!" and then they don't know if they should ask questions, or if it is too painful for me to talk about.
I don't know what to say, because I don't know what they're sorry about; they didn't do anything wrong. Do I say "thank you"? For their sympanthy? Do they want to know more about him, or will they be uncomfortable hearing more? I try to ease the awkwardness by saying something like, "He had a heart defect, and we were happy to get the time we had with him." The conversation will then either die here or more questions are asked; either way is fine with me.
I basically just hate that I could be having a light, cheerful conversation with someone, and then suddenly, it turns to doom and gloom or total seriousness. I don't want Charlie to be a depressing topic. I loved being his mother, and like any mother, I love talking about my children. Hopefully over the years, I'll get better at answering this question.

1 comment:

Denise said...

I appreciate your insight. I have never lost someone close to me and I feel almost uncomfortable around the subject. It is hard to know what to say or do. I understand how you would not always want the conversation to turn to sadness. Of course you want to share the memory of your sweet son.