Sunday, March 14, 2010

Answer to a Question

Someone asked how I introduce my family to new people. I figured some others may find this information useful so I thought I would answer.

How I answer depends on how the question is asked. If you think of all the ways you introduce your own family to people I bet you would find that there are lots of ways. This is especially true the larger your family gets. 

This was one of my biggest concerns after Camille died and one of the few questions I had for other mothers who had lost children. I found most of them said that how they introduce their family just depended on the situation. At the time I hated this answer. I didn't EVER want to not include Camille in my answer. I felt like that was saying she didn't count and She Does Count. 

Since then I have come to understand why these mothers don't always mention or include their angel children. It is really a pretty big bomb to drop in a casual passing conversation. So I think this is one topic that we mothers of angel children struggle with no matter how we decide to answer. 

I, however, have a few basic rules of thumb for myself when introducing my family. 
1) Don't lie. 
2) Camille counts.
3) Try not to make others feel devastated.

That being said let me give a few examples. 

If I meet someone and I am alone and they ask how many children I have I say 5. If this is a person I will see again and they ask their ages or names or any more detail I say I have an 8 year old, a 7 year old, a 4 year old, one that would have been 2 but passed away and a 10 month old. If I am never going to see this person again (grocery store or something) I say they all 2 years apart and the oldest is 8.

If I meet someone when I have kids with me they often will not ask how many kids I have. If I only have Noble many will ask if he is my first. I say he is my 5th and that he has 4 older sisters. They are usually so distracted by how sad they are for him to have all those older sisters that they don't bother to ask any details about the sisters.

If I have all 4 kids with me people never ask how many kids I have. They just assume that these are all my kids. They will make comments like, "So 3 girls and then you got your boy huh?" To this I sometimes say, "actually there is one more girl not with us." Other times I just don't feel like correcting them so I just nod and smile. 

If it is a passing comment by a stranger I generally don't go out of my way to correct their assumptions. But if they ask directly I tell them the truth. If I am meeting someone who I know will eventually know me well enough to know about Camille I tell them as soon as the opportunity presents itself naturally.

Most of the time I am able to mention Camille and then Noble after and I find that if I at peace in how I mention her then the other person usually feels more comfortable with the information.

I know this is a really personal thing for bereaved mothers face and decide. I think I took my lead from my Grandmother. She lived to be 99 almost 100 and two of her daughters passed away when she was still living. They were grandmothers themselves when they died. I would never of thought to say she only had 4 kids. If anyone asked her she would say she had 6 children. I knew my aunts and had cousins  by them. I would never even think not to include them in the count of how many kids my grandmother had or how many siblings my dad had. 

I guess I feel like just because Camille's life was short and she didn't have posterity to carry pieces of her forward, she doesn't count any less than my aunts. So as much as I can, I include her.

Hope that answers your question. Anybody else got questions?


Laura Jansson said...

I love how you explained each situation so eloquently. Camille matters, but you don't try to make anyone feel awkward or sad. You're very good with words :)

Anonymous said...

Oh how I'm going to feel ashamed for saying this but I have a question I know you don't hold the answer too-but you are so smart and sweet:) I'm horrible at helping my husband through his grieving process. Losing his nephew (only 3 years apart in age)in a car/drowning accident has been tough. I hide and cry when he crys. I'm ashamed to say I can't see him in that way-it HURTS so bad and I feel so selfish. Do you think he finds me selfish? There has never been a death in my life and I feel so inexperianced when I hide. Will it go away? Will he hate the person(later on) he never knew I would turn out to be? Today Michael would have been 24.

Leslie said...

Stephanie, the examples made a lot of sense to me. My daughter lost one child just prior to birth and I always count her in my count of grandchildren. Sometimes I mix my count up -- partly because I feel so young and can't believe I have that many! -- but I always intend to include her and think of her very much as part of our family.

Chelsa said...

Love your explainations! A lot of our answers are the same. I think it's always a tough question to answer, sometimes it just takes me off guard.

I agree with you about your grandma's daughter's, just b/c they were older doesn't make them count more... that totally makes sense to me!

Donna said...

My brother passed away not long after birth, 8 years before I was born. When people ask me how many siblings I have, I always include him. If the conversation continues naturally, I explain there are only 5 of us living or grew up together.

Even though my family didn't talk about him a whole lot, (My oldest brother was only 11 months old when he was born). We don't have any pictures, either. I still feel closer to him than any of my other siblings. Sometimes, for reasons I can't explain, I miss him terribly and can hardly wait to meet him!

I can't even imagine not including him!!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you even read your comments, but here goes - Hi, this topic hit me because I have been thinking about something similar, but so different... so maybe you have some advice. I was married in the temple to an RM. A few kids and some years later we divorced because he wanted to live an alternative lifestyle. I am so grateful for those experiences because they made me the person that I am today and I feel so blessed to have the testimony that I because of it. I have since remarried (in the temple) and through life's processes moved to a new neighborhood. I have children from my previous marriage, so although I do not ever go into the details with people, I do not hide the fact that I was married before. I was recently called to work with the youth. When the president of the YW found out about my history, I was released because she didn't find it 'appropriate'. I have to be honest that I feel as though I have been guided by Heavenly Father in my life. I have never been ashamed of it. But now, I don't know. Maybe I should be more guarded. I don't drop the information when I am introducing my family, but if it comes up or people ask I am always honest. But having had this experience, I don't know what to do.

jen said...

Wow. Lots of different experiences here in the comments section.
I had a stillborn daughter almost eight years ago, and I find myself facing this question often. If I say I have eight kids, then they see us all together and only count seven, do they think I was lying?
When I say that I have seven kids in the presence of my other kids, they always say, "No, Mom, eight! Remember Ella?" And it's difficult. Still no easy answer to this question, but you never want to shortchange the life of your child, no matter how short the life.
Good luck finding the permanent answers. Once you do, let us know.

Anonymous said...

I'm not LDS (live in a place where majority is) but a comment to the lady who has remarried. Let me just say how sad I know you must feel (and embarassed?) and that recently while I was introduced to a friend of a friend-she privatly asked if I was mormon, and at what age did I have my first child? Also if my husband was the father of said child. I fessed up to all in truth. She too had a similar experiance and her and I (although different religions) are becoming fast friends. She accepted me while others may not-you have great faith and while you may not feel certain about your truthfulness-you will see it down the road. I feel you are fair in what you are currently doing:) Best of luck and love.

Anonymous said...

You have such a way with words. great explanation.

I have a question for you-- was it hard for you to decide to stay home with your children, or was that always your plan?

and secondly--- and this is probably too personal!!! How do you keep from feeling panicked that something might happen to one of your other children? Do you find yourself wanting to wrap them with bubble wrap or watching them every single instant? I find that I am so worried about something happening to one of my children, I don't really totally enjoy the "now." Does that make sense?

Jonathan Waite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing how you handle these situations. That is great advice and you shared it so well, as you always do.