This Father's Day was different from last year. Wyatt will be five-years-old soon and Rose is now three-years-old. Last year, the kids didn't really understand the meaning of Father's Day. But now that the kids are in daycare, they have more awareness. Throughout the school week the kids worked on some small gifts for their dads. I didn't realize the daycare would be doing this. I'm not sure that I would have asked them to accommodate my kids in any way had I known. However, it was a difficult week for my kids and me. Rose has told me few times each day that she misses her dad or that she wants her daddy. One day, Wyatt wanted to bring home the gift they were working on for dads because it had candy in it. As I told him he had to keep it at school because he wasn't supposed to bring it home until Friday, he shouted, "I want it! We don't have a daddy!" My heart broke inside because I know what he meant. Part of me wanted to remind Wyatt that he did have a dad, but I realized that Wyatt knows he has a dad. He was just sad and frustrated because he can't give his dad the gift he made.
The kids have been more irritable and I think it is because Father's Day has triggered their grief. Most days the kids do okay because they live in the reality that they don't have a dad who is alive. I think at times like these, they realize that things could have been different. After all this, I was worried about going to church on Sunday because typically they talk about fathers. I worried that something at church might make my kids feel even more pain. In fact, I had even thought about not going to church. I tried throughout the week to tell them that Father's Day was a day for us to remember daddy. When I went to church I really hoped that I had adequately helped my kids to prepare for this day. Church ended up being just fine.
The biggest thing that I learned from Father's Day this year is how much discomfort I experience when my children are in pain. At times I felt myself wishing that they had a stepdad. It felt like such a strange thought because I've always felt confident that if I never remarried that the three of us would be enough for each other. I think it was painful for me to feel what it's like when I can't fix something. The truth is that I can't be their mom and their dad. A new dad can't erase the fact that they lost their dad. And sometimes my words aren't comforting and can't help them to understand.
As I find myself repeating explanations of what happened to Isaac and where he is, I feel so helpless. Rose is at the age where Wyatt too continually asked questions seeking to understand more about Isaac's death. I hate to see her confused. Having helped Wyatt through this phase, I know it will take time and repetition before she can process what happened. It may be more painful for me than it is for her as she struggles. Although I know that is healthy for them to feel this way and to talk about it, it is still difficult for me to see them grieve or ache for their father. Sometimes I wish they could just be young kids without a care in the world. It's hard to see your three year old deal with the harsh realities of life. In some ways it feels heavy to have to let go and let my children experience pain. It feels too soon.
On Father's Day, we went out to the town where we last lived before Isaac died. We visited a playground that we used to go to. We also drove by the house where we used to live. I worried that revisiting these places might increase my children's pain. I often feel unsure of whether or not what I plan will help them in their grief. My boyfriend came with us and that has been a huge blessing. It can feel scary to revisit these places with the kids because I'm not sure how they are going to react or if I might feel triggered. Having him with me during these times makes me feel braver to grieve in the ways that I need to. It also helps to be able to share my grief with him.
This Father's Day was not easy. I'm not sure how we will experience this day in the future. My guess is that some years will be more difficult than others. Some will feel bitter, others will feel sweet, and most will probably feel bittersweet. I'm so grateful for Isaac and the time that we had with him. He loved being a father. I remember how he was so ready to have kids when we got married. In fact, he wanted to have 10 kids. I'm so grateful for his example of love for family. I sincerely hope that as I share stories about Isaac with my children, that they will not grow bitter because of their loss but instead will gain a deep appreciation for their father. I don't want my kids to dread Father's Day. I hope that somehow, together we can make this a day of healing and happiness.