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“But what I do have: I have a very particular set of skills…Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”
It’s not a movie line you’d think of as sparking a conversation about romance, but the tease for the Liam Neeson movie, Taken, certainly did.
“Didn’t you see Taken Dad?” My middle daughter, Hannah, loves action movies.
“Yes, saw it in the theaters with your Mom.”
“A long time ago. I took your Mom. We had a date night.”
There was a pause in the interrogative and then: “That sounds fun. Do you like date nights, Dad?”
I said: “I did, Kiddo. I don’t have date nights any more.”
As soon as it slipped out I knew the reaction I’d get.
I tried to stop the tears.
“It’s okay, Hannah, it’s not a depressing thing. I don’t have your Mom any more. I’m not going out with anyone. I don’t have date nights.”
Hannah wasn’t actually sad. But she did realize at that very moment that she hadn’t really thought too much about losing her Mom from her Dad’s perspective. I’m very cognizant of how my kids see things losing their mother, but I don’t pretend to think I know how they feel. I can only imagine.
She looked at me and told me she hadn’t thought about the loss from an adult perspective.
“You have us, though, Dad!”
I actually couldn’t help it; it was time to have the conversation now.
“It’s not the same, Kiddo. I love being with you and Abbi and Noah and Sam, but there are some things you just can’t say or do with your kids. I can’t talk about some things with you the way I would with another adult. That’s just the way it is.”
There are no maps of the minefield of feelings that those who suffer loss navigate. I don’t lie to my children, they’re aware of most things I do. Sometimes, particularly in my case, you just need to have a discussion about real life – life that’s not involving the sad, depressed, pitying look you get because that other person knows you’ve lost your spouse.
To use the movie line, I do have a particular set of skills – skills that allow me to care for four kids like these. Where I veer from the line is the fact that I also live my life, stilted as it can be sometimes, and deal with the bad things and the good.
I use occasions like this to have conversations with my children because there should be no surprises. They lost a Mom, they don’t want to lose their Dad, either, not physically or emotionally. So they get over-protective. Sometimes that’s adorable. Sometimes it’s just not their job nor their business.
It applies to all of you, too. I talk about moving on with our lives. What particular set of skills does your situation call for? Do you talk about them not being alone with a teacher or why walking at night with a group of friends is a better idea than walking alone? Do you talk about how adults have sex and the differences between sex with love and sex for enjoyment?
All of these are hard topics, but you can use that set of skills to spot when they pop up and avoid the nightmare that might come later.
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