Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Santa...

I was cleaning out Kaeli's backpack after her school holiday party, and I found a letter that she wrote to Santa in her class. She has already written one at home that was full of toys.

She actually left the home list next to the TV, and every time a commercial came on with a toy she wanted, she wrote it on the list. That girl is resourceful.

I was surprised to find that she had added some things to her school list. Some of which made me chuckle. One touches on a subject I haven't really discussed with y'all. As soon as I read it my heart fell out of my chest.

  • A hamster - I am not opposed to the thought of a hamster. Every kid should have one at least once, right. She's asked for one before because her older cousin has one. Kaeli agreed months ago to wait until she's older. We already have a very needy dog. Cleaning out a hamster cage is not something I want to add to the list.
  • A brother - Um. Yeah. I had to ask her about this one. She explained by saying that she doesn't want just any brother. She wants my friend's son to be her brother. They were born 6 weeks apart and spent every moment together as babies and toddlers. They were even in the same day care classes. She was so heartbroken when he moved to Oklahoma. They talk on the phone sometimes, and my friend and I have discussed having them be pen pals since they've learned to write now.
  • A shooting star - How absolutely adorable is that? I didn't think like that as a kid. She's so much more imaginative than I ever was. It's a little late for Christmas, but I'm thinking that naming a star after her might be a good birthday present this summer.

Then, (brace yourselves) tucked in at the bottom she wrote that she wanted her dad to be alive. It's hard even writing that sentence. I hadn't decided if I was going to approach this subject on my blog. It's not really fun, cheery Christmas time material. I rarely discuss it. I hate how everyone immediately feels sorry for me. My friend, Maria, is the only one I really talk about it with. Mostly because she is the only one who still asks questions about it. She's a psych major, and I think she is using me as a real life case study. Kaeli's dad passed away when she was 4. We weren't married (mostly because I was young and parents had recently divorced and marriage seemed pointless to me), but we lived together and talked about getting married when I finished college. She really never knew a life without both of us. Then, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.

I worry constantly about Kaeli. She was so young when the car accident happened. She was there when the police officer came to the door to tell us. She immediately knew something was wrong, but death is a hard concept to explain to a 4 1/2 year old. I answered every question. Confirmed every memory. I moved us to a new town so she could be closer to his parents. I started a whole new life for us. I think she has adjusted well. She's happy and flourishing, but as she gets older, it gets harder. I've been able to grieve and move forward, but she's still grasping the concept of death. I think she understands it better than most 6 year olds, though. When something like the Santa letter happens (and it does happen but more in the form of proclaiming that she doesn't have a dad when other kids ask her why they never see her dad), it just opens the wound. I worry that I'm not doing things right. That I'm not helping her enough. Should I talk about him to her more? Are there enough pictures? How does it affect her that her grandmother can't mention him without sobbing? Does her grandmother lean on her a little too much? She is just a kid, after all. Was it a bad idea to move Kaeli so close to them? Is she really happy, or do I just think she is happy? Am I too hard on her because it's just me now? Is she going to spend 20 years in therapy because her crazy mother is overprotective and handles everything wrong? It's just constant uncertainty.

Sorry to be a total Debbie Downer. This Santa letter seems to have shaken me more than I originally thought. Kids should seriously come with a manual. This parenting thing is tough!


Jennylynn said...

Honey Bun, this is a question WE ALL ask ourselves? Are we making the right decisions for our babies?

As long as you address questions she has openly and quickly, I am sure she is fine. Kids are smarter than us... I am convinced.

Hang in there babes, it's okay to feel at Christmas... it's okay to feel... anytime. Afterall, sometimes our very own feelings are the ONLY things that are OURS!

Bow Chica Wah Wah said...

OH MAN! This is hard... but it seems you are doing an excellent job. I wouldn't be so hard on yourself I'm sure she feels very loved and it seems you're doing everything you can

Izzy said...

Gosh, what a tough issue around Christmas. I don't know what I would do in your shoes! Your daughter sounds so precious.

Cherish said...

You sound like you are handling things really well. Im sure these questions will always be there but you can only do the best you can and give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You've done so well so far that Im sure you will continue to do whats best for your daughter.

Katie said...

What a sweet little girl you have. You are obviously doing a fabulous job with her. And, JennyLynn is right...with, or without the hard situation you are in, we ALL ask ourselves this question about our parenting. It is never answered, unfortunately.

And, it seems natural that Kaeli would wish for her dad to be alive. I think just talking to her and letting her know that is a natural/normal thing to is good. Hang in there!

Melissa said...

It is so wonderful that he made such an impact on her life at only 4-1/2! It's hard not to think about people around the holidays, I think you are doing better than you give yourself credit. I believe we all doubt our parenting anyway, and here you deal with a passing. She's a smart kid about writing Santa with this, then she's a smart kid to know you love her and are there for her, that you are doing the best you can too :D

..Maybe Santa should write her a letter for Christmas day with what you would like to say regarding him and still being here for her around the holidays and all year through, just as she thinks of him, he thinks of her :)
xoxo, Love you guys have a great Christmas!

Astarte said...

Oh, WOW. I had no idea. I thought you two had split up, or something, and he took off. I'm sorry I thought that of him; he was obviously a great dad.

You are a great mom. It's totally normal for her to wish stuff like that. If you didn't talk about him enough, she wouldn't think to wish for him. If you didn't make her safe and happy and secure, she would think about it all the time. It sounds to me like she has a good balance.

I'm so sorry that happened to you, and I'm glad you were able to talk about it.

SBW said...

Wow. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. I can't imagine how the loss impacted you and your daughter. I'm not a psych major or anything. You know her best and her wishing for this doesn't necessarily mean she's unhappy. It's probably common for children to wish for these types of things. Heck, I still wish for my Grandmothers to be around...

Hope you get through this...

Chantal said...

From the sound of her letter and the way you speak of her I would say you are doing things just right. I lost my Dad a long time ago (I was a young adult though, not a child) and I often wish he was still alive. Your daughter is expressing normal feelings. It is nice to know that she is comfortable to put that feeling into a letter that she knows you are going to read. She is comfortable saying those things to you. That means you are on the right track. Take care of you too eh!

TUWABVB said...

I put off commenting on this post beause I wanted to say something profound and meaningful - and I just couldn't think of anything, because you know, this sucks. Losing a parent has a profound effect on a child - but I've only seen it be a negative effect because of the actions of the surviving parent. If you were trying to deny that it happened, or erase her memories, or handle it in any other manner than what you are doing, then I might say that you need to rethink your strategy. But you are handling the situation with grace and responisbility and honesty - and there is nothing better for a child. I really admire you for this!

And extra kudos that she is so comfortable in talking about it. I think that reflects what a healthy attitude you have used to approach the whole issue.

Have a great holiday and I hope Santa is very, very good to you both!

Anonymous said...

It fills my heart to know that she remembers him and misses him. Kaeli is the smartest kid in the whole world. You are a wonderful mother, and you shouldn't ever doubt it. Though, by doubting it, it just makes you an even better mom!
I think about you both a lot. Miss you~!!