What I wish my mum had told me growing up

I led a sheltered existence growing up. My mum was a great protector of my innocence and my father answered my endless questions about life in his gentle diplomatic way. If I heard a crude comment out in public and asked Dad what it meant, he would graciously explain in the most sensitive way possible. And as for mum, she would have gone to great lengths to brush it under the carpet in hope that I would permanently erase it from my memory. It never existed. And I must admit, that I now cherish the way my parents allowed me to see the world as a child – beautiful and uncomplicated.

But now that I am all grown up, and have children of my own, I serve the role as life teacher. It is my job to teach my children manners, responsibility, how to stand up for themselves in moments of conflict, and self-belief in all that they do. I would now need to find a way to teach my children about life and death. And how to be at one with all the different emotions we feel as humans. But most of all I would teach my children how to love, laugh and enjoy all that life has on offer.

Your little people look up to you for understanding. What you say and do will shape their view on worldly matters. And what a massive responsibility that is! As a parent, you will never quite feel one hundred percent confident that your approach is correct. From self-assured one day to lost for words the next.

I was confident in my approach to explaining the simple joys in life. However I really wish that my mum – my teacher and life coach – had warned me of the heart-wrenching role that is educating children about loss. Have you ever seen a child lose their favourite toy, and the overt emotions that come with this situation? And as a parent if you had to soothe your child in this situation what would you do?

Imagine seeing your three young children processing the news of a terminally ill family member. A beloved grandparent, which they had known right from the beginning of their existence. A friend and confidant that surrounded them with love and comfort. And upon that fateful day, where you not only lose a parent, but you must tell your child that their “Nanny” has passed away – you are lost for words. It is right about now that you wish your mum had clued you in on the best way to handle this situation.

The metaphorical bubble wrap that encased my children would be penetrated forever. They must now learn about loss and grief. Honesty was the only way. So as I sat my three children down, the eldest aged six, middle child four and the youngest aged only 18 months, my husband and I said “There is something we need to talk to you about”. Without a word more from me, my six year olds eyes began to well up with tears and turn red. He looked up at us with his piercing blue eyes and said “Nanny died didn’t she?”

All I could muster in response was a nod. If I spoke I was sure to break down. The tears flowed between all of us, with the exception of our 18 month old baby, who stood looking confused. As we hugged, overwhelmed by sadness and emotion, I was unsure of how to soothe my children upon this news. The skills to extract the pain of death and loss from my children were vacant from my bag of parenting tools.  I was feeling the pinch of responsibility to make it all better, I needed a solution. But nothing came.

It wasn’t until my matter of fact four year began to ask questions. “So where is Nanny now?” he asked. “She is an angel in heaven” I replied. “But will we get to see her again?” he added. “Well we can’t see her, but she will watch over us as an angel, and keep us safe” I replied. And at the time, I wasn’t entirely sure if this answer was sufficient. It wasn’t until the day of the funeral that I realised how intricate little minds can be, when our middle son placed his arms around me and said “It’s ok mum, because Nanny is an angel now and keeps us safe. We don’t have to be scared of things like the dark now”.

So it seems that we not only learn from our parents in this lifetime, but we also learn important lessons from our children. What I wish I had learnt from my mum growing up, I had just learnt from my son. Through grief and sadness, the innocence of my child’s mind had turned the sense of loss into a sense of gain. His beautiful, uncomplicated world had remained intact. And as such, history repeats itself.