Monday, November 9, 2009

The problem with truth telling....

Before I ever thought of having kids or becoming a mother I had what I thought was a VERY wonderful idea about raising my imaginary offspring.  I told myself that I would never lie about the important stuff.  I'd never tell them that loved ones or pets don't die.  I wouldn't lead them to believe that shots won't hurt and I'd never tell them that they'd always be happy and never have their heart broken.

Simple right?  Wrong. 

The easiest of my "promise" seemed to be the shots.  From the time they were babies I'd tell them these words before shots, "big stick, bee sting, cuddles and then a prize".  It served me well for the most part.  The only time it truly backfired on me was when the girls needed to get their shots up to date for school here in Louisiana.  I inadvertently mixed up who needed what shots when I was preparing them with the whole "big stick, bee sting...." yada yada yada.  I had told Olivia she would be getting one shot and that Hannah needed three.

Olivia, while she was not overly joyed about needing any was completely over the moon with the idea of torturing her baby sister who'd have to be stuck not once, not twice but three whole times.  "That's two more than meeee"...she sing songed all through our wait time.  She'd reach over and pinch her baby sister which would send Hannah to wailing and then Olivia would say..."oh come on...that's just one stick...imagine three of those back to back", and so on and so forth.

There was two things that Olivia didn't count on and they were karma and my ability to keep the kids shot records straight.  When Olivia galantly led her little sister to the slaughter...ergh, I mean chair, she all but passed out when the nurse stuck Hannah once then released her from the seat and handed her a lolly proclaiming that she had been a "very big girl" and that she was "all done".  Those two phrases and the fact that Hannah knew the difference between her getting three and her only getting one.  She'd done the quick math and trained her eyes on her sister.  Olivia chose that exact moment to turn into a psychotic animal who first tried to run out of the building but was strong armed by Jon and then as she wailed like a banshee she attempted to hold onto the door while bracing her feet against the frame.

Yeah, my honesty about shots wasn't going too well on this occasion.  All Jon and I could do after they were finally able to immunize her,  was to walk out shaking our heads and apologizing to every one we came in contact with in the building.  I do believe we apologized to a janitor that day and to be honest with the way our kid was screaming I think he appreciated it.

My first go around with using honesty in regards to death of a loved one was when my grandmother died and my oldest was on a Girl Scout camping trip.  It's not that Olivia hadn't dealt with death before, on the contrary actually...the poor kid had her 7th birthday postponed because my grandfather, her great grandfather, bit the proverbial dust.  Nothing like blowing out the candle on your one piece of restaurant cake while the entire family is gathered sniveling and trading stories of the dearly departed at an elongated table of a bar & grill that just happened to be conveniently located next to the funeral home.    Well that and the fact that she was actually at the nursing home visiting him with my parents when he died.  Yep, that's definitely one for the scrapbook!

While I rushed to Florida to console my mother and help with the funeral arrangements, poor Jon had to make up some kind of song and dance about where I was when she returned from camp so as to allow us both to be there to break the news to her.  From that experience I learned never to wait 5 days until I am in the same state to break news of that magnitude.  While she was upset about her great grandmothers passing she was more upset that she was not notified immediately.  Jon and I learned that Olivia was not one of those kids that dealt well with being the last to know anything.  Hell, if we run out of toilet paper you better go notify her first or else there will be an issue.  That's just her thing.  She likes to be in the loop.

On the other end of the spectrum is Hannah.  When my first min pin Aden passed away suddenly over the summer while the girls were away we made a point to tell them both.  Fearing a repeat of great grandma and the wrath of Olivia not being notified we figured that honesty when the event took place was the best policy.  With Olivia that was fine.  She took the news, was saddened and moved on.  Hannah on the other hand who had been too young to really comprehend the news of her great grandmother's death, when it occured, was a bit trickier.  She had a meltdown of unworldly proportions and we were almost deemed horrible parents for breaking the news while she was close to 600 miles away.

When we were plagued by a second pet's death less than a month later Olivia was back at home and unfortunately along with us had to bear witness to the little guy drawing his last breath.  She was heartbroken as were Jon and I but seemed to process it and deal with it fairly well considering it was her dog.  We didn't tell Hannah this time and instead saved the news for when Jon could be there with her.  She was upset, but took the news far better because she had Jon there to hold on to.

So with death and shots my plan of honesty has been doing pretty good with preparing the girls with the realities of life.  When it comes to heartbreak though, I've had a bit harder time sticking to my rule.

As the minutes and hours have turned  into days, weeks and now months of Jon and I grappling with the state of our marriage, one of the things that has weighed heavily upon my mind and heart has been my kids.  What to tell them and when.  Olivia being older and of the mentality of tell it to me now and let me process it myself I chose to be a bit more forthcoming with her.  Hannah being the baby and the one that would rather not know something until it's actual, factual and has already taken place has been pretty much left in the dark although I know she's not blind or deaf to the amount of tension and arguing that goes on between her father and I. 

Tonight though I was backed into a corner while we sat at Sonic to pick up something to eat.  Hannha had just returned from a weekend soccer tournament with Jon and I was taking her for ice cream.  While we waited for our food she began to ask questions.  I figured they would come seeing as Jon and I had a rather loud verbal exhange within minutes of him coming in the door.  It's sad that after 30+ hours apart we couldn't make it a full 30 seconds without launching into a disagreement.

The questions came quietly and timidly from the backseat.

Hannah:  Mom, are you and Dad angry at each other?

Me: (don't lie, don't lie, don't lie) Yes.

Hannah:  How is that even like, just saw each other?

Me:  (don't lie, don't get defensive, don't lie) Well Hannah ya know how sometimes you and your friends don't get along...even when you haven't seen each other in a day or two?

Hannah:  Um, yea....

Me:  (don't get defensive, be honest, don't snap at her) Well, me and your dad are like that right now...we aren't getting along....

Silence falls uncomfortably in the car and then the food comes.  I contemplate just letting the discussion go but as I look into the rearview mirror I can see tears in the corners of her eyes and I know there is more she wants to say.  Part of me wants to scream at her to just stop it and let it go, but then I have to remember that she is only 10yrs old and this very much affects her life.  Be honest, I keep reminding myself.  Be honest in 10yr old terms...don't lie.

I remember back to when I was younger, after my sister had been killed and my parents would argue so much that I thought they would never get along again, I take a deep breath focus on that feeling as probably the one that she is having at this very moment and hope for the best.

Me:  Hannah, if you have something on your mind that you want to ask me or talk about you should just put it out there.  No matter what it is, I will answer you honestly and I won't be angry...I promise.

Hannah:  (hesitant but looking very determined) Are you and Dad gonna split up?

Me:  I don't know Hannah and that's the truth.

Hannah:  Ok.  But....ummmm.....but.....

Me:  Hannah whatever it is just ask me.

Hannah:  Do you still love him?

Me:  Very much.

Hannah:  Does he love you?

Me:  Yes.

Hannah:  I don't get it.  If he loves you and you love him then why do you fight ALL of the time.

Me:  Because sometimes people that love one another have things that take place that make them so angry that it becomes difficult to just be happy loving the other person.  You want to know that the person you love is being honest with you and if you think that they aren't or know that they aren't it tends to make it very difficult to just be happy being in love.

Hannah:  Oh.  Well, you think you guys could, ya know...just work it out or something cause I'm tired of listening to you not get along and I'm sure Olivia is tired of it and guys should just work it out.

I sat quiet for a really long time.  Hannah didn't even seem to notice because she was over the moon for her Oreo ice cream blast.  Then she spoke again.

Hannah:  Mom?

Me:  Yeah Han.

Hannah:  I'm sorry I asked about you and dad.

Me:  Hannah, don't apologize.  You have a right to know what is going on to a point.  I know that these things affect your life.

Hannah:  I know.  But the reason I said that I was sorry was because you looked really happy before I asked you.  Like...just sitting here you and looked happy. 

Me:  Well I am happy just sitting here you and me (I let my face break into a goofy smile to get her to laugh).

Hannah:  (she chuckels at my face and then turns serious again) I know....but I think you were happy because dad wasn't here.

Me: (unable to speak)

Hannah:  It was nice to see you happy for once.

Silence became all consuming and the only thing I could hear was her scraping ice cream out of her cup and the wheels of the skating car hops.

See, that's the trouble with truth brings with it a whole new line of questions.


1 comment:

  1. geez you're making me cry at my desk. i swear we're living a parallel life. i am so glad my kids haven't asked me anything about happiness or love, etc. :-p