To 75% of the parental population, this simple question could be compared to being asked something like; What colour is the NZ Labour party?… a seemingly simple question from the boundary with an answer that requires no extra skip of a fence or a good pair of binoculars for most. But to the other 25%, it’s a question which brings with it, a layer of added complexity. Can I see burgundy or crimson? Where are my glasses? If I shut one of my eyes it looks different. Is it raspberry or just plain red?….. Do I say I have just 1 child, or do I say 2? Are they still counted as my child if they were a miscarriage or are they more my child if they were full term? Why does this question feel more complicated than it needs to be.
As I begin to navigate my way through the mapless terrain of a Mum balancing work life / home life / personal life, the simple pleasantry question of ‘how many children do you have?’, raises its dainty wee toes gently above the surface more often than not, reminding me that going out for a swim requires a little more care and planning than otherwise anticipated.
Unfortunately for a number of innocent folk i’ve come in to contact with since returning to working life, they’ve worn the blunt end of the stick from my now methodical answer; “I have 2, but one’s alive and one’s not”. This is generally followed by an awkward laugh on my behalf and an equally awkward stumble of “i’m sorry” on the other party’s side of the table.
Honestly, my intention is not to make others feel ‘sorry’. I’m merely answering their question with zero amount of icing sugar dusted on top… and definitely no cherry. Is that ok?
Wouldn’t it be great if people were educated on grief and loss and began to normalise how they could have conversations around these topics? Having people in our lives (children, friends, parents) who leave us unpredictably or even predictably, is something we all have in common, yet no one talks about any of it. Maybe they could say things like; “Oh, would you like to share some things with me about your children. I’d love to listen if you’re happy to share”. But, more often than not, we are left to awkwardly jump over waves and swim around boulders, as we navigate a conversation with people where the ghosts of fear and guilt prevent us both from connecting authentically.
At the end of the day, everyone faces some sort of grief at some point in their life and grief is merely just the price we pay for love, so why don’t we talk about the love?