A Heart that will be Broken | Handling Death | The Things We Say

A Heart That Will Be Broken

Dear Micah,
My daughter is obsessed with her boyfriend to the point that she turns against her father and me if we so much as say one negative thing about him.   Her friends have told me that he’s really a player.  They don’t like him at all.  She’s already stopped being friends with some of them because of it.  I am worried for her.  She’s my only daughter.   I don’t want to see that precious heart of hers get broken but I fear it is going to anyway.  Any advice?
P.S. She’s 19 so I can’t really stop her with grounding or anything.  And I worry that I’ll push them to move in together if I try anything too drastic.
Worried Mom

Dear Mom,
Let that precious heart of hers get broken.  I totally get that she’s your daughter and you don’t want to see her get hurt, but sometimes lessons have to be experienced, not explained.  I could tell you how bad 6 cloves of garlic would taste crushed into a slice of chocolate cake, or you could just taste it.  I bet you’d remember the taste longer than if you’d just heard my description.
Let that scoundrel break her heart and then she’ll learn the lesson.  There’s nothing else you could do anyway.  If she’s that head over heels in love she isn’t going to dump him just because Mama doesn’t approve.  Bad love has a funny way of being the strongest force in nature.  People will make all sorts of terrible choices just to protect it.  They will shut out every voice of reason and turn against anyone who they perceive as opposition to their obsession.  You just don’t have the ability to fight that.
Her love for this boyfriend is probably just as strong as any type of drug dependency.  Basically, she gets a high around him.  The only way she can come back down to a place of reason and rationality is to fall.  She’s got to fall and fall hard, and then you may step in to help her.  She’ll need it then because she’s made him her whole world and when that ends, and it will, she’s going to feel like she’s left with nothing.
Now, she won’t actually be left with nothing.  Her family will love her, and her friends will probably come back and her life can resume where it left off when she tied up with him.  But in her mind, she will be devastated and will have lost everything.  So your goal, when that time comes, is to make sure she stays rational, doesn’t get too depressed, and doesn’t try to chase him down and win him back, and you should do everything possible to show her the opportunities she has to move her life forward toward better goals than that silly boy.  Do your utmost best to not tell her how right you were and how stupid she was.
Start that now before they even break up.  Support her as much as you can stomach and let her feel like you are on her side.  Listen to her problems and try to keep your opinions to yourself until she figures things out on her own.  Do not alienate her and cause her to move out because then you’ll have a harder time knowing what is going on in her relationship.  You can’t be there to catch her when she falls if you weren’t tracking where she was drifting.

Handling Death

Dear Micah,
My son is 7 years old.  His best friend from school’s father has recently died.  My husband and I went to the funeral, but we didn’t take our son.  We haven’t told him about it yet because we don’t know how to broach it.   He’s begging to see his friend this summer but I don’t know how to explain the absence of his friend’s dad to a small child.  Also I am asking if its even appropriate at thias age to introduce the subject of death.  I don’t want our son fearful that his daddy might die. Can you offer your opinion on this for us to consider while we decide what we’re going to do?

Dear Emma,
Oh yes, I am never opposed to offering my opinion.  You need to tell your son today that his friend’s father died.  I think that at 7 years old he will understand.  My father died three days before I turned 6 and I understood.  Of course, at age 8 I was cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner, so maybe I was a little older than the average kid of the same age.
Still, you need to tell your son about his friend’s dad.  Your son should have been told when it happened and been allowed to go to the funeral or at least to his friend’s house to show support for his buddy.  His friend is going through a terrible time now and could probably use his best pal around to show him that life can be fun again.  I would try to let my son spend as much time with that kid as I could this summer.
I’d bet his mother would appreciate that as well.  If your kids remain friends as time marches on, your husband could possibly be there for the kid as a father figure to help him through rough spots in life.   I think that family needs your support and your son’s friend needs your son.
Besides their needs, your son needs to learn about death as soon as he can so that he is braced for it.  I may be a little skewed on this subject because of my own experiences with death, but I feel that death should not be ignored.  We are all going to die, we can’t just pretend that we aren’t.  Kids need to know how death works and what it means to those of us left behind when a loved one passes away.  Again, I might have a somewhat weird viewpoint on this matter because death is no stranger to my life.  I have lost a lot of relatives, close ones, and several friends in my lifetime.  I think of death kind of like a distant cousin that pops in from time to time.  It usually brings a bundt cake, or at least a bucket of KFC.
Death comes to every family and though painful, it can be used as a learning experience.  You said you’re worried that your son might begin to fear that his father might die–well, he might.  You might die.  Grandma might.  Hopefully he’ll be an adult before he loses any of you, but just in case he isn’t, shouldn’t he understand what death means and be prepared for it?
Try to explain it all to him gently.  Give him time for questions.  Explain how badly his friend must be feeling so that your son has a clear comprehension of what grief is and how it works.  It’ll help him to be more patient and understanding with his friend if that friend starts to display some negative behaviors or gets emotional.
Don’t linger too long on the scary death part though.  Give your son the facts, explain what they mean, and then turn the conversation into how you could all try and make his friend feel a little better.   Come up with ideas that might help his friend to enjoy some of his summer.  Maybe make plans to go to the park or the zoo or even a day trip to Six Flags.  Let your son come up with ideas to help.  That will distract him from focusing on the death part too much, yet the message of what it is will have made its way to his brain.

The Things We Say

Dear Ask Micah,
I have a disabled child and it burns me up when I hear people call other people who are perfectly healthy retarded.  Always its used as an insult to tell people that they are not smart.  It’s a thoughtless and hurtful expression for those of us living with actual retarded children.  Can you put this out there so that others will learn to have more respect and consideration?
Dear Amy,
As one of the people of the world who have used the word “retarded” in a context to insult someone, I would like to apologize to you and anyone else whom that expression offends.   I do want to say, though, that I am sure no one who has said it has meant to be careless and hurtful.
Usually it is said in jest rather innocently, but I can see why it could be offensive to people who do have to deal with handi-capped, disabled, or retarded people.  I have a niece with severe problems, so I should know better.  I suppose the term has come back into fashion because typically no one uses the word “retarded” anymore to describe loved ones.  We say “mentally challenged” or “disabled” or any number of varying terms—anything other than calling them retarded.  We do this because on some level we recognize “retarded” as being a negative and offensive term.
Because of this, it has moved from being a descriptive word once used to explain a condition and has become a playful word used to joke around or insult with.  That doesn’t mean that its right, but I think that’s what has happened.  So whenever you hear a person say the word in a playful manner, try to not judge them too severely.  They didn’t mean anything by it and aren’t even really aware at how offensive it can be.  Like most people caught up in a moment of play, they aren’t thinking.
It’s very similar to how back in the 90’s it was common to say something “was gay” if it was stupid or boring.  I used to say that all the time.  Then one day a friend pointed out to me that I was being offensive to gay people.  Being gay myself, I didn’t get offended when I heard others say it; I took it in its context and thought it was funny, but I recognized and respected that the term did offend some, so I stopped using it—most of the time.
Even just writing this, I have thought of another prime example of how we use words and aren’t even aware of the connotation.  Have you ever said to someone, “You are so lame?”  I’m sure you weren’t making fun of crippled people—it was just an expression–but that might offend a person who doesn’t have use of their legs.  Amy, you have brought to light a valid point and I thank you for writing me.  I know that I am going to try my best to be aware of the terms I use and how they sound.  As long as it doesn’t become forbidden to say “stupid,”  I should be all right.  That’s the one term I refuse to let go of.
If you have a question you’d like to ask Micah, please email it to MicahCargo@hotmail.com. Your question may be used in a future online or printed article in B-Metro.

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