Life has taken a slightly unexpected and not very happy turn these past few days. Someone in our family (my granddad) is very sick.
Now I’m lucky to have a big family. My granddad has 3 children, 11 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. And that’s not including partners. So there are a lot of us. And we’re all very close.
But being a close family isn’t always easy and today I’ve seen a side of being a parent that has made me stop and think.
When someone becomes very ill, decisions need to be made. People need to be told. Family needs to be warned about what might happen.
So here’s the thing. Today, my mum, aunt and uncle had to make decisions about who knows what. To think about whether or not they wanted us (the grandchildren) to get to the hospital to potentially say our goodbyes. To figure out whether we need the full truth so we can be prepared or whether to give us a ‘hopeful’ view of things until they know for sure that it’s not hopeful.
And their first instinct was to try and protect us, their children, from having to deal with the pain and uncertainty they are. They didn’t want us to see someone we love hurting or distressed. They didn’t want to cause us unnecessary worry or anxiety when we are powerless to change anything.
I get that, I really do. Because I’ve got the same issue myself. I need to decide what I tell my children. What I let them see or know. Which is fucking hard.
Because no matter how old your children are (I’m 38…) you will always want to protect them. To shield them or some how stop them from being hurt or upset.
And that’s a good thing.
We can’t always protect our children. Sometimes, we have to let them get hurt. Because that’s life. It has ups but it also has downs. There are good times but there are also the really painful times. And we need to learn how to deal with them. We need to be able to feel them. So we can heal from them.
I have a difficult decision to make about what I tell my eldest daughter. She’s close with my granddad (we spend most days round there) so this will be very hard on her. So what do I do? Do I protect her? Is that for her benefit or for mine? Am I shielding her from pain because I really think she shouldn’t feel it or because I, myself, can’t stand the thought of watching her upset? Is it a life lesson or unnecessary suffering.
I don’t know is the honest answer. As a mother, that’s terrifying. We only ever want what is best for our children but sometimes what is best is not what is easiest, nicest or painless. At some point we have to let our children see the bad side of life. The painful side. And we need to trust that they can handle it.
As hard as it is as a mother, we need to let our children experience all that life has to offer. The good and the shitty. The most important role we have as a parent is as a supporter. Because we can’t always protect our children but we can always be there for them. We can always help them through the tough times. And do you know what, as they grow up, sometimes they’ll help us through them too.
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