Thursday, March 25, 2010


One of my challenges as a mother lay in addressing the realities of life with my children without scaring them. The big reality being that my mother had died when I was a child, and the scary thing being that the same thing could happen in their lives because, of course, it could.

One night at dinner when they were very small, my boys were grappling with their developing understanding of extended family, and the conversation went something like this:

Why do we have Grandpa and Grandma on one side and Grandpa and Brenda on the other?

(Explanation followed.)

Josh, who always pondered things very deliberately: Mom, how come you are such a great mom when you didn't have a mom?

Matt, who always had a great deal to say: Our mom is a great mom because she didn't have a mom. She just figures out what she didn't have and then she makes sure that we do.


My boys are in fourth or fifth grade. Josh's teacher has given his class a list of human qualities and asked them to discuss which ones they think are most important. Conversation in the minivan on the way home:

Matt: Well, obviously intelligence is the most important quality in a person.

Josh: No, Matt. Kindness is the most important. What difference does it make how smart you are if you are mean?

Matt: What difference does it make how kind you are if you don't even know it?

Lively debate ensues. The driver sides silently with Josh but, being a thoroughly Montessori mom, leaves the discussion to the original participants. The Lovely Daughter, being a Montessori child rather than mom, does not hesitate to interject questions and comments.


Fifteen years pass and the child who championed kindness does the most devastatingly unkind thing of all.


No wonder the mom's self-assessment is considerably altered.


It is one thing to acknowledge and understand that depression is an illness and an evil that destroys someone's expansive kindness and generosity along with his very considerable intelligence.

It is another entirely to live out the consequences.


  1. the sad truth of reality v's theory. love to you.

  2. Yes. Another thing entirely.

    I am glad you can remember those beautiful words from Josh.

  3. Those beautiful words will live on.

    I know I cannot help, but depression sinks one into such a hole that kindness does not exist--I remember being so depressed and suicidal that I did not even think that my children, including my youngest 5 year old, would care if I was gone. It is crazy, but does not seem so in the midst of it.

    Love to you, my dear.

  4. Did you ever read Ann Lamott's description of her best friend, Pammy, in "Operating Instructions?" Pammy's mom was what Lamott described as something like "the worst kind of falling-down drunk," and I remember her writing that Pammy grew the kind of mom she needed inside of herself. I've always loved that thought. Perhpas that is what you did.

    Your children, from everything I've read about them, are intellingent AND kind people. It is a joy to read your memories of their conversations.
    I am so deeply sorry for your loss and pain.