We will excuse her, she is new to death.

December 20, 2010

Ahh, a new adventure in parenting:  How to Force a Child to Attend a Mourning Service.  Complete with tantrums, tears, and foot-stomping.

My children and I are very lucky.  We have never lost anyone that we are close to in a very difficult way.  It is true that I have lost grandparents and aunts and uncles.  But these were people from whom I was distanced by time or geography for some time prior to their death.   My grandparents moved from New England to Florida and Arizona before I left for college, and contacts were minimal.  When they passed away, it had been years since we knew each other, with annual visits in between where there were only the most superficial of gatherings.  I think if we were very close prior to the moves, we would have kept in better touch.  But it was not the way things went.

My parents are very much alive and – for the most part – healthy.  Because I am young as a parent in my community (by up to 15 years, in some cases), and my parents were young as parents, my kids have the youngest grandparents in perhaps the entire universe.   Lemon has this one friend who’s mother (my friend) is 2 years younger than my mother.

Their other grandparents are also very alive, and even healthier than my parents.

Their aunts and uncles are much younger than me or their father.

We have not had any accidental deaths in their life time.

As a result, my daughters have never been to a funeral.  They have never been to a wake. And, in light of us not being Jewish, they have never paid a Shiva Call.

Until yesterday.

Sadly, friends of ours lost a member of their family.  My friend’s father, Lemon’s friend’s grandfather, passed away after a very brief illness.  While it was a surprise that the time between diagnosis and death was very short, it seemed to have been as positive an experience as one could have in such a situation, as there was enough time to prepare hearts for the loss, but not so much time to prolong suffering.

Our family was invited to drop by while the family was sitting Shiva.  I gave Lemon several days’ notice, being very clear that I expected she would come to support her [very close] friend.  She said “okay, but I don’t even know what that is!”  I explained (as best I knew, as this was a first time experience for me, as well, although I highly doubt my last) it to her, and she begrudgingly agreed she should go.

I reminded her several times through the week that we had this to do on Sunday.  She weakly protested: “but he hasn’t even mentioned his grandfather to me, Mom!”  To which I responded, “just because it’s hard for him to talk about doesn’t mean he doesn’t need your support.”  I threw in a couple, “being a friend means doing the hard things, too, not only the easy things.”  I’m sure that was met with some eye rolling, but still general agreement.

Until it was time to go.

Oh boy.

Then she really didn’t want to go, and became a new (icky) person as a result.  “I don’t know what to wear!”  So I suggested what she should wear.  “I don’t know what shoes!”  So I suggested shoes.  “They’re too small!” So I lent her a pair of mine.  “What socks am I supposed to wear with these?  These are too big!  They’re ugly!”  So I suggest she change her clothes into something she likes.  “I can’t! My clothes are at my friend’s house!”  So I suggest she solve her problems just like she would if she were dressing to go to a party at a friend’s house, and not something that was making her feel uncomfortable.

She sat on her bed and cried.  She shouldn’t have to go.  It’s not fair.  She doesn’t know what to say.  She doesn’t think her friend really needs her.

Then she got dressed.

I had suggested a polka dot dress she wore 2 years ago to a Bat Mitzvah service.  When she hated that, I suggested her black jeans and a nice top.  Those were the things that were not at home (totally my fault, and definitely my problem).  But when she dressed herself – finally – she put on very dark wash jeans, black boots, and a nice jacket/blazer over a fresh white top.  She looked good.  Considering that she’s 14, I thought she looked appropriate.

We took her to the service.  Which wasn’t even a service – it was a gathering in someone’s home, with food, conversation, and no overwhelming sense of grief.  Also – there was no body in the room.  Which means it was easier for her than the few such gatherings I had to attend at her age.

My friend said, “Oh [her friend] will be so glad you’re here. I think he’s feeling a little lost.”   She went and sat with her friend, and WD and I mingled some.

She was not the only 14 year old there.  I spoke with another friend who has a daughter in Lemon’s class and said, “man, did we just fight.”  She said, “oh!  So did we!  It was horrible.  I don’t even know what happened to her – all  of a sudden, she couldn’t work out how to choose proper socks!”

No, seriously.  She said that.  Just like Lemon, this other girl was stuck on SOCKS.  They had the exact same arguments we had.  The exact same.

[Also, Lemon was dressed more than appropriately, in light of the other kids there, and the adults.  WD and I were on the dressy side.  I think us non-Jewish people may be a bit uptight ….]

We didn’t stay long.  Only about 45 minutes.  Lemon spent the whole time with her friend, and I think she was a comfort to him.  She apologized to me afterward, and said she understood that she behaved badly.  I told her that I understood, and that she is not unusual for feeling uncomfortable around difficult things.  I told her I understood it was hard, but I wished she chose to talk to me about how she felt about it, rather than seizing up and freaking out.  We also laughed about the similar arguments that went on in all of the families that brought their 14 year olds along.

Then she went out with WD, and she presented me with 2 dozen roses.  She said she brought them because she felt bad about our earlier argument.

But in truth, I think we all know she brought them so I would allow her to go to her friend’s house, despite the behavior.

(WD thought she was more genuine than that.  But, still ….)


One comment

  1. I love your posts about your girls. I look at the future, the big, scary yawning future of tween/teendom and I am afraid. I think, “I can’t handle a 3 year old!” But I read your posts and realize that the battles are the same, the skill set is the same, but the payoff is so much better.

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