I’m thinking about getting a second family, one with a wife and kids. I could take out an ad in a newspaper, “Man looking for wife and kids to help him figure out his own children. Family must know man and his three children will live in another house.” That should get me married in less than two weeks.
Why, do you ask, am I going all ‘Big Love’ kid version? Because all of a sudden my three-year-old will no longer eat her Lucky Charms for breakfast. She won’t do it. Two spoonfuls and she says “I’m no longer hungry.” It’s Lucky Charms! It’s as close to giving a child a bowl of sugar and a straw for a meal. So I tried a different cereal, no dice. Now her non-eating is spilling over to dinner, I come home from work and see a plate full of food on the kitchen table – the table has since been long been abandoned by the children - and my Mom tells me “Molly said she wasn’t hungry.”
So then the question I ask myself the most, when it comes to my children, finds its way to my brain. “Is my child being a three-year-old who is inserting her independence, or is she being a three-year-old who lost her mother and is acting out.” Do I go with the flow, “Oh, those kids” as I scrape the plate of pasta, carrots, and chicken into the garbage. Or do I jump on the phone and set up an appointment with a therapist as I take the uneaten food, put it in a zip lock baggie, and mark it with a black Sharpie: Exhibit #1.
Yes, I know kids don’t eat full meals.
Yes, I know kids don’t listen to their parents.
Yes, I know my kids will get in trouble and break the law and drink someday.
I get it, I truly do. But it’s also a mistake not to keep an eye out for signs they need a little more attention due to me being an only parent. It’s a bad idea not to look for context clues from the kids struggling with not getting enough affection. And trying to guess their pain is challenging, because they don’t come up and volunteer their grief; you have to be creative in having it come out. I do belong to some amazing groups that help the kids and I deal with this part of grief. I do.
However, it’s still difficult to resist the temptation of every time they hit one another, to sit them down and say, “Now, do you really miss mom and you are looking for someone to hold you and instead are replacing it with negative contact that leads to anger which in itself is easier to emote than love?” The child looks at me and says, “No, Haley knocked over my Lego tower on purpose and I’m mad.” “Oh… then off you go. Just don’t hit her in the face.”
Can you see where my second family would come in handy? I can be sitting down for dinner and my middle child will say, “Dad, I don’t like broccoli, I’m not going to eat it.” I can then get up from the table, hop in my car and go to my second family (where I have a wife), join them in the middle of their dinner, turn to the middle child and say, “Hey child number two, you have a mom and me as a dad, no issues there, are you going to eat your broccoli?” “Are you crazy Dad, I’m a kid, I hate broccoli!” I can get back up, run out the door, go back to my house, go over to Kelly, pick her up, and swing her around in circles saying, “You’re not traumatized, you’re just being a kid.”
Only to have her throw up all over me and my eldest daughter say, “Dad, why would you spin her around like that during dinner? Did you forget, or is it because you miss Mom?”