I’m meant to be working right now, but I had a bit of a shitty morning. See, today is Grandparents Day at my kids school. But to be really inclusive they call it Grandparents and Special Persons Day. But really, I learnt today, it’s just the Grandparents Day.
So last year I went along for my kids, I took part in the games, stayed while they ate their lunch and then stayed for the morning tea. It was fine, I felt a little like I shouldn’t be there, but the thing is, they don’t have Grandparents that can come to these things.
On their father’s side, they live in England. On my side, my Dad lives a two hour drive away and probably wouldn’t want to come anyway, even if he lived closer. And my Mum died two years ago. It would always have been her who came to these types of things. In fact, only days before she went to hospital for the last time, she was at my son’s kindergarten for Mothers’ Day.
So when I arrived today and saw all the grandmothers milling around, for a split second I saw the back of Mum’s head walking in to my son’s class room. These things happen when you miss someone so terribly, that you sometimes forget, just for a second, that they are gone.
This experience is always quite unsettling. But it’s part of it and I’ve come to understand these moments, and mostly I can manage them. Today, I thought I did manage it. My son and I continued to his class room, where I helped him distribute his birthday party invitations.
We then retuned to the Multipurpose Room to sit with the kids while they had lunch. My eight-year old daughter was a bit unsettled. She didn’t like her sandwich, she felt sick, she was cold. And then she said “We don’t have anyone who we can invite today”. I said that was why I had come, but she explained that I wasn’t a Grandparent so didn’t really count. Then she started crying. Ok, fair enough, I get it.
I’d already had the rug pulled from under me from my momentary imaginary siting of Mum. I collected myself and moved on. So it’s fair to say that I felt a little deflated to hear that I didn’t really count.
Anyway, things moved on. The kids were ushered outside so the grown ups could enjoy a quiet cup of tea and a cake. I joined the queue for a cuppa, only to be told that there wasn’t enough hot water for me to have a cup of tea, because I wasn’t a Grandparent – we needed to make sure the Grandparents all had a drink. Final straw. I slunk away, bit back the tears and went outside.
So my pondering today is around how much can we expect to protect our children from our own ‘stuff’? I wondered whether my daughter was already feeling my Mum’s absence or if she picked up on it from me. Is it right to try and protect them from this sort of thing, or is it part of the human experience – no matter how young they are?
I’m not really sure. But I can’t help feeling like as much as I tried to protect her from my sadness and fill the gap for the one who was missing, it was never going to work. Because ultimately this is life and people disappear, and no matter how much you long for them, they are gone.
I went along today to try and make Grandparents Day & Special Persons Day a happy occasion for my kids, but was it always doomed to fail?
I think next year on Grandparents Day we’ll all take the day off and have our own Special Person’s Day at home.
What do you think? Is avoidance better than facing the pain every year, when there are so many other occasions that remind me she is gone?