A story of grief by a man and a boy

in conversation

My son just threw me a question after I’d said goodnight that I decided I shouldn’t just leave hanging. It was late, he knew he should already have been asleep, but sometimes you just know when it’s time to pause and have a proper chat. 

‘If you get a new wife would I be able to call her ‘Mum’?’ he asked.

‘Would you want to?’ I replied, slowing bringing myself to sit on the bed next to where he lay, somewhat taken aback by his completely unfamiliar line of questioning.

He nodded softly but quickly went quiet; it was time to talk.

‘Do you actually want me to get married again?’ I asked. 

Again, I noticed a gentle nod but he didn’t really commit.

‘I want a baby brother,’ he added, the conveyor belt of new relatives getting longer by the second.

‘But do you actually want me to be with someone?’ I pushed, suddenly realising I was conversing this way with a six-year-old, like any of it was his decision to make.

‘I just don’t want you to be lonely,’ he said cuddling up to me. ‘I think you’re lonely when I’m not around.’

‘I’m alright you know, Jackson. I’m not that lonely,’ I went on.

‘You are. I can tell. I know everything about you. I’ve known everything about you since I was three.’ 

It blows my mind how ludicrously funny his conversation would be if it were captured on camera for some dark family sitcom. It’s genuinely like his mother is back in the room.

‘I see my friends and my family when you’re not around, though. And I keep myself really busy. I’m really not that lonely,’ I reassured him. ‘Do you actually want a brother?’ I asked again. 

‘I do, but I don’t want a white one. They need to be black or mixed race.’ By this stage the conversation has grown so sublimely shareable that I was looking for the hidden cameras.

‘It’s just I’m not sure I want to get married again,’ I pressed, ‘but when you grow up you can get married and have kids of your own – you can build your own family.’

‘Oh, no thanks!’ he snapped. ‘I don’t want to do that. Can’t you just do it?’

He shook his head at me, giggled, curled himself into my arm and nodded off. I had to write it all down immediately because otherwise I suspected I would find myself wondering if I’d made some of it up. 

It made me think a lot, though. 

How do we know what our kids want versus what they want for us? 

Should a young child even influence a parent’s decisions when what they say can quickly flip from a seemingly teary conversation to a nothing more than a bit of a laugh.

Do we protect them or do they protect us? 

Can we ever know what is going on in their minds?

I can’t answer any of these questions with any real conviction, but I can keep trying to make sure that I listen and engage when it feels like it matters most.

I mean, with that sort of conversation, who would ever want to miss out? 

16 comments on “in conversation

  1. helenvecht
    April 19, 2017

    Wise beyond his years!

  2. Ramblings of grief
    April 19, 2017

    Fab. Precious memories x

    Joanne Baker

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Anna
    April 19, 2017

    Those precious little moments can have so much impact.

  4. Jenny Downham
    April 20, 2017

    Oh Jackson you are brilliant and sensitive and must definitely keep your Dad on his toes! A beautiful boy 😍

  5. Carol
    April 20, 2017

    Still think you should get him a kitten! Or a puppy! 😊😊😊 XX

  6. Helen
    April 20, 2017

    Amazing conversation!

  7. Trish Bermingham
    April 20, 2017

    Beautiful, and as only children can be hilarious in its simplicity. These moments can’t be scripted, but grabbed when the opportunity arises, frequently coinciding with trying to stay up later. Be happy.

  8. abueladoula
    April 20, 2017

    What a wonderful boy you are raising. I look forward to seeing how this progresses.

  9. Notmyyearoff
    April 20, 2017

    Awww he’s so lovely…and very wise. They do seem to know everything don’t they?

  10. victoriawhyte
    April 21, 2017

    Wow – that’s some boy that you’re raising and he’s so blessed to have an amazing dad like you to love him xx

  11. Mma
    April 22, 2017

    Simply precious, thank you and your little boy for putting a smile on my face today . As hard as things are, it’s little moments and conversations like this one that makes you feel blessed and thankful for a great child. You are doing a great job with him.

  12. Camille Vickers
    April 23, 2017

    I’m 29 and lost my partner as a result of a car accident when our wee girl was just 7 months. She’s now coming up to 3 and is an absolute cracker! I sometimes wonder how and when this kind of conversation will happen and when she will start to ask where her daddy is. Thank you for sharing your story, your wee boy sounds so caring and loving 🙂

  13. encounters
    April 26, 2017

    It is good that Jackson feels comfortable to be honest and open to share with you the things in his heart. I am sure it is all down to the way you have raised him. He knows pretty well how you react to his thoughts.
    It is obvious that he knows a conversation with you is taken seriously and is not dismissed as child talk. Like you say yourself all you want is to listen and engage in a meaningful conversations with him.
    Thank you for sharing this personal and interesting conversation with this your smart, loving and caring child.

  14. madugyamfi
    May 5, 2017

    Sweet Jackson

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