My ex-wife of 12 years and I shared joint custody of our sons, ages 10 and eight, for the first five years. We alternated the summer months, plus Christmas and Easter.
That ended when she moved to another city, soon became ill and was hospitalized several times. Our sons sent texts, sometimes phoned. Their contact dwindled as they became preoccupied with school and friends.
Currently, their mother’s losing her battle with cancer and I’m uncertain how to alert/prepare our sons for the inevitable. Also, having re-married seven years ago, I’m unsure if I should attend her funeral with our sons.
My current wife is uncomfortable about it but says it’s up to me. Your advice, please.
This post-divorce decision is complex. There’s baggage: leftover emotional issues, current partner’s discomfort, travel costs, etc.
An open discussion with your now-wife is crucial. She has to hear and understand why you might attend.
The boys, mid-to-later-teens, need to absorb internally that this is the woman who birthed them and her illness was no fault of hers. Also, that their decision now could upset them later. (They may internalize her loss as abandonment, or even resent you, depending on how you handle this).
Experience has taught me that the loss of a parent, even a distanced one, can affect a person’s future relationships. Discuss this with your sons, recommend that they attend, and go with them. They’ll need your support. Tell your wife that you love her dearly, respect her discomfort, but feel this is the right thing to do for you and your sons.
A funeral is how we teach children (even adult ones) that life is precious even if imperfect, and a parent’s passing deserves notice, and hopefully, new understanding.
Years ago, my brother missed a week of school, struggled to catch up, then committed suicide. In a note, he explained that he got zero on a test because it was on him to make it up, and he didn't get around to it in time, as he was overwhelmed with make-up work.
Mostly, I don't think my parents are to blame. They weren’t strict about grades, though they insisted we do our homework.
My niece is starting kindergarten. I told my sister that if her daughter ever falls behind, to get her out of the classroom until she can get totally caught up (not actually sure this is an option). My sister thought this sounded odd, and I realized she likely didn't know what led to our tragedy, as she was in college then.
I haven’t yet told her. I'm worried that she’ll blame our parents. I guess I could just say that he was overwhelmed with make-up work. Or should I wait until I hear about a problem involving school?
What a heartbreaking tragedy! Years ago, is long enough to put this family disaster in the past. Telling your sister about it can only frighten/worry her about her daughter’s introduction to kindergarten.
Most parents believe that today’s teachers would be aware of a child’s homework difficulties and some help would be recommended/provided. But your sister won’t easily dismiss anxiety about this.
She might also lose trust in your parents, even consider them unqualified to babysit or spend a lot of time with their granddaughter.
If you feel you must inform her, wait enough years till your niece is well-settled at school and your sister a wise overseer of her daughter’s homework.
However, I believe that saying nothing about this painful memory for you and your parents, is the kinder decision for everyone involved, including your niece.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the mother who was loudly berating her teenage daughter for her poor food choices of high-sugared fizzy sodas and potato chips (August 13):
“The writer called it an “embarrassing tirade" easily overheard on their plane, with the mother calling her daughter "disgusting” and repeating her “blistering criticism.”
“I agree that any other approach by the writer would’ve worsened the situation. Yet I doubt this verbal abuse isn’t normal behaviour of that mother to her daughter. I easily believe this is the way she often treats that poor girl at home and in public.
“The mother’s behaviour was plainly very abusive and totally unconscionable. She was abusive/cruel to that teenage girl embarrassing her in front of a planeload of strangers!
“One can only wonder what that girl’s self-image must be like, and the extent to which her mother has damaged it. The word “abuse” must be said.”
Tip of the day:
Decide what matters most now, and for the future.