I am not sure if I have just been more aware this last year or if it truly has just been a year of great loss, but it has been a year where we have experienced death. Some have been tragic and way too young and hard to understand, some have been older people who have lived good lives and it was just their time. Regardless of circumstance these losses have brought a few opportunities.
One opportunity has been having conversations with ourselves and our kids about topics we don’t usually talk about. A big one has been around death, it has included how or why people die, where they go, what happens to their body, why do we put them in a box and what does it look like, can they still see through the clouds on a foggy day and should we leave them out treats… I mean you can imagine the questions that have come up. Kids face death so matter of fact, they are able to speak so bluntly and truthfully, be insightful and also accepting. I am forever grateful of the things I am learning from my kids.
Some of our conversations have been around families, we have had funny questions like when they see “Grandpa W” in my baby picture. Except it isn’t Grandpa W it is my dad whom my kids have never met and don’t know. That was a conversation that Fraser loved sitting and watching as I responded.
It also opened up lots of conversation about Frasers family and why we don’t know or see them. It has been a good reminder to us about the importance of being open. Something that destroyed relationships for his family in the past was not having conversations and not being open and willing to communicate. It has also been a tough one for us, to explain actions we don’t understand to the kids that sometimes people make choices we don’t agree with or that make sense to us but that we cannot control other peoples decisions. BIG topics for our 3, 4 and 5 year old.
We aren’t always prepared for our curious kids and the surprise questions they have, we don’t always answer theses questions in the best way and our kids love to repeat what we say so we like to have a good answer for them. However at the end of the day I am proud of all of us for having these conversations and taking the time to make our kids feel safe enough to ask about all topics. I think one big lesson for us is making sure we respond in a way that allows the kids to continue to be curious. I truly believe they feel no topic is off limits and I want them to feel that way.
When we were growing up I don’t remember having tough conversations or feeling like we could bring up any topic. I think in our families (both Fraser and I) a lot of these topics were kinda of “off limits”. In that era it wasn’t about talking about your feelings, or at least it wasn’t like that with our families. We avoided hard topics and stuck to safe and happy topics. I don’t think we had a bad childhood or that it was “wrong”. I think we just didn’t know differently.
My Mom was a single Mom who had a lot to deal with (including raising 3 girls) and we knew she didn’t like to have certain kind of conversations. I think working and raising a family is tough and can be emotionally draining on a person. To add to it the time and patience it takes to sit down and discuss hard stuff with kids. I get it, it isn’t easy.
One thing I think we are trying to change with our own kids is being open with them and having conversations that might make us sad, or are hard to have. Some questions we might not have the answer to and somethings don’t make sense to us adults, so they are hard to explain to our kids. Over the last couple months we have talked about death (including funerals, burials, heaven), global warming and extinction, homelessness, racism and gay rights. So much in our world has changed for us over the last 6 months, things have become somewhat unpredictable and the pandemic has taught me that nothing is guaranteed.
Another opportunity that has come up has been self reflection in our own lives and how we live. Some things are little (like we started back composting again) some things were a bit bigger (like we bought the boat and decided to homeschool). It has basically reminded me to not leave things unsaid and to live each day the best you can. To take opportunities as they come and to have the strength and courage to go for the things you want. At the end of my life I want to know that I took advantage of my life, lived it and am happy with the way I lived.
I have really been reflecting on my life to date, and even been trying to come up with a “bucket list”. It was the strangest thing when I went down to write out my bucket list, it was blank. In my 36 years I have accomplished so much that I wanted to do and that makes me happy I realized I am living my mission of making the most of my life. ***(I have since started a “bucket list” that I have every intention of completing.)
This year we took the opportunity of time that has been given to us, thanks pandemic, to spend raising our family the way we wanted to. We work hard at having strong relationships and that is not always easy. We try to make sure each person has what they need (Fraser takes time out for pottery, has his workshop space, Rowen has supports he needs to be successful, Grace we try to take mom and daughter time or have one on one with Nan, etc). It isn’t always easy to make sure we all have what we want, but I think this past bit has taught us we have given more than what we need and for that we are forever grateful.
I wish everyone had the basics needs always met, pandemic has been a reminder of just how fortunate we are with rarely worrying about the basics like food, shelter, money. We are certainly not rich but we are loved, safe and supported by a very big group of family and friends and I am learning not everyone has that privilege. I think the best I can do is continue to have conversations with my kids, keep an open mind and grateful heart and take advantage of the time we have.
Life is not guaranteed to any of us and the end is inevitable so I want to know that I have lived the life I wanted. Lots of things are out of my control but lots of things aren’t. Are you living your best life? This past year has taught me our best life can look different than our neighbour, parent, best friend, etc but that’s okay and we need to embrace what is our “best”. We don’t have to have the most money, the best car or the perfect day to be living our “best” and to look back on our life and the things that we are most proud of are happiest with might not be what you expect.