Last week, there was a meeting for all second grade parents for us to learn about some of the activities this school year. I was sitting next in a group of my mom friends, and one of them asked how things were going.
Usually I gloss over questions like these, but recently I’ve decided that I need to be more honest when people ask. It isn’t that I’ve been lying to people. I just haven’t been forthcoming about Ethan’s struggles.
My decision to be more open comes from HOPING parents will be more understanding. It’s like when Ethan tells me stories about this new kid in his class. This kid is really having a rough time, getting into arguments and fights, having difficulty making friends. When Ethan tells me these stories, I instruct him to remember what it was like earlier this year when he was the new kid. That we need to give this kid a little understanding, more love, because he’s adjusting and that’s hard. Now, whether or not other parents are trying to teach these kind of lessons, well, I don’t know.
Back to the mom friend who asked how things were going. I was honest: that Ethan was really struggling this year and having some troubles. I believe, I told her, that it comes from the grief he’s trying to deal with but that we’re working on it, through tae kwon do and the peer group and therapy.
Her face squished up a bit and she said (and I’m not paraphrasing at all), “Really? He’s still dealing with that? I would have thought, well it hasn’t been a year yet, but it’s been a long time.”
“It was the end of January,” I said. “Kids process in an entirely different way than adults do.”
Then I turned and faced the front of the room.
Really? Do people really think Ethan should be over the death of his dad? Do people REALLY think it’s THAT easy? And, given that all my mom friends know the basics of my relationship with Mike and the circumstances of his death, do people think nine months is enough time for Ethan to be fully healed and functioning like nothing is wrong?
A few days later, I had the chance to have the same conversation with a different mom friend. She reacted in an entirely different way, very sympathetically, and even with some suggestions for resources in the area.
I guess every reaction will be different, and some will be offensive. It’s true that no one knows your child better than you do. And, I guess I won’t be having any more Ethan-is-struggling conversations with THAT one mom.