Is is ever ok for a non-parent to offer advice or express concern? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 02:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, so, my friend died this fall, leaving behind her 4 y/o son and husband. I basically lived with them for 3 months while she was dying to take care of the kid. We spent 100% of our time together, he came everywhere with me. We had always been friends and, since he was tiny, we have had a close relationship. I also met this family through the husband, and we were friends first, and then I became friends with his wife, so I have a pretty descent relationship with all of them.

Anyway, when my friend was dying, the kid stopped going to preschool. He never liked his school and his dad didn't want to make him keep going. Since she died (3 months ago) he hasn't been going to school and I would estimate that he spends an average of 6 hours a day playing video games, it could be more. His dad has always loved video games, it was a big point of contention in their marriage.

The dad isn't working right now either and so they're home together, all day. They have lots of adult friends that come over, that all play video games. They do get out sometimes, but they spend a lot of time at home playing video games.

It's all the kid talks about. I took him to a really cool dance show, that he loved, but everything was relative to video games. He kept saying, "mario can do that move!" and things like that. Everything in his world is relative to video games.

At least before it was just at home, but now, a friend has bought them a portable game unit. He wants to take it everywhere. It used to be that I could take him always from the games and go do something fun but now he throws a fit if he doesn't have his video game with him and I'm not really in a position to "lay down the law."


I try and get him out of the house as much as I can. He spends lots of time with my family, which is great and he loves. However, the dad has basically cut off all of the rest of the family and her old friends. He feels like they all judge him, and they do, they always have. One of her friends would really love to take the kid to play with her kid (they are best friends and LOVE to play) but he won't answer the phone when she calls. I have been one of the only people that he doesn't feel judged by throughout this time. He also feels like I know the kid.

Sometimes I feel like it's only been 3 months and they're still trying to figure things out but it also seems like that's a long time for a 4 year old. He really acts different when he plays video games all day and when he's really into a game, he won't want to do anything else. It trumps going to the beach (his all time favorite), playing with me or any of his friends.

I try not to tell him that I don't like video games and I always play with him for a little while before we leave to go somewhere else. I feel like disowning the video games would be like disowning him at this point, because they are so much of his world. I really want to make sure I keep my connection to him and his dad.

Soooooo, am I an any position to mention my concern to his dad? Is it just too soon? Is there never a time? What would you do?

I think he needs to spend more time with kids and away from the tv but I can't always be the one to create that space.
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#2 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 02:54 PM
 
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I think it's too soon. Losing a parent is one of those unfathomable events.

Plus, kids get fixated on things. I was a dog for 3 weeks once when I was about 4. Once it warms up outside he will try something new.

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#3 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 03:00 PM
 
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I think you need to let it go for now. When I am stressed out I let my dd watch a few movies even if it isn't the weekend. This guy just had his wife die and he is much more stressed out than I could ever be from school and being a single-mom. I think the video games are his way of making sure his child is safe and happy while he is emotionally unable to do more than sit with his child and play a video game. I don't think it would be healthy for him to cut that off until he feels more capable of being the parent he wants to be.

When I pull my dd away from something fun it helps to give her a few minutes of warning or a warning that we will stop at a natural stopping point, a snack for the car, and to tell her the fun thing we will be going to do. That may help him transition to.
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#4 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 03:01 PM
 
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Running down the list of your concerns -

Dad absorbed in the least emotionally demanding thing available? Grief.
Dad avoiding certain friends/family, not answering the phone? Grief.
Kid relating everything to his video games? Normal kid (my toddler has been relating everything to Batman for months, and believe me, he does not spend hours a day watching cartoons.)
Kid throwing fits when separated from favorite toy? Again, normal kid. Possibly some anxiety issues (see Grief).
Kid's not even interested in going to the beach? Don't know where you are, but it's kind of winter here, I have trouble seeing this as meaningful until May at the earliest.

It's not so much that you, as a non-parent, have no standing to say anything as that I, as a parent, think you are magnifying some things that either aren't issues or that are normal grief reactions. This family is having a really hard time right now, but you can't make it better by removing the game consoles.

I think, when this guy chooses to spend time hanging out with other people who also play video games, what he's choosing is to spend time with people who are willing to meet him where he is. The kind of loss he's been through is overwhelming, and a lot of men aren't so great at talking about their feelings - he may in fact be getting a lot of support from just feeling like people are willing to sit with him, so I wouldn't mess with it.

Angles I would come in on -
1. Kid's friend would like to see kid. Can you arrange this visit?
2. Is it around time to think about registering kid for kindy next fall?
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#5 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 03:14 PM
 
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It's not so much that you, as a non-parent, have no standing to say anything as that I, as a parent, think you are magnifying some things that either aren't issues or that are normal grief reactions. This family is having a really hard time right now, but you can't make it better by removing the game consoles.

I think, when this guy chooses to spend time hanging out with other people who also play video games, what he's choosing is to spend time with people who are willing to meet him where he is. The kind of loss he's been through is overwhelming, and a lot of men aren't so great at talking about their feelings - he may in fact be getting a lot of support from just feeling like people are willing to sit with him, so I wouldn't mess with it.

?


yep to all of that above!

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#6 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 03:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Plus, kids get fixated on things. I was a dog for 3 weeks once when I was about 4. Once it warms up outside he will try something new.
We live in Ca. It's pretty much 60 degrees here year round. Everyone is still playing outside, it's not a weather issue

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I think you need to let it go for now. When I am stressed out I let my dd watch a few movies even if it isn't the weekend. This guy just had his wife die and he is much more stressed out than I could ever be from school and being a single-mom. I think the video games are his way of making sure his child is safe and happy while he is emotionally unable to do more than sit with his child and play a video game. I don't think it would be healthy for him to cut that off until he feels more capable of being the parent he wants to be.
I totally agree with the boded part. That is certainly part of it. However, my concern is that it isn't really healthy to spend all day relating to video game characters instead of other kids and people, especially when he needs to be processing what just happened to him.

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It's not so much that you, as a non-parent, have no standing to say anything as that I, as a parent, think you are magnifying some things that either aren't issues or that are normal grief reactions. This family is having a really hard time right now, but you can't make it better by removing the game consoles.

I think, when this guy chooses to spend time hanging out with other people who also play video games, what he's choosing is to spend time with people who are willing to meet him where he is.

Angles I would come in on -
1. Kid's friend would like to see kid. Can you arrange this visit?
2. Is it around time to think about registering kid for kindy next fall?
I'm not really concerned with the dads behavior. It is who he is. He has always been pretty obsessive about video games, and yes, it is people meeting him where he is, absolutely. That's part of the reason that I partake when I can. He is an adult though, and he can choose where he wants to be, and who he's with, I'm worried about the 4 year old.

I didn't mean to imply that I was ever trying to take away the video games. That wouldn't even been possible.

As far as the beach goes, it would be normal for him to be going to the beach right now. It is very temperate here and we go to the beach year-round. I just used that example but what I meant was that all the things that he has perviously loved, aren't even on the radar anymore. It's like he's forgotten that there's a world outside of video games.

I will/have/am trying to get him together with his friend but it is hard. We had a plan to get together with his other friend this weekend but then his dad decided he didn't want to. It's very hard to make plans, especially when I'm the middleman. His friends mom was really good friends with my friend who died. She was crying to me about how our friend would have been so sad about the way they're living right now. And it's true, she would have been. She was the one who brought balance to the 4 year old's life. She got him out and took him to school and playgroups. Most of his friends are kids of her friends. In cutting off this circle of friends who were primarily her friends, all of his kid friends have also been cut out. I'm not being judgmental, it's just the way it is. It just seems very unfair to the 4 y/o.

It's a little early to register for K around here but I do want to talk to him about his plans. That is something that I've been waiting for the opportunity to do.

oy, it makes me cry I love them so much.
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#7 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 03:44 PM
 
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I think it's too soon, too. Yes, dad and son are immersing themselves in video games - likely as a coping mechanism for grief, but I don't think doing so is going to harm the child (anymore than he already has been, since he just lost his mother). If it were, say, 2 years later and you felt like the little boy was being neglected, and/or not ever leaving the house due to gaming - then I would intervene somehow.

I, too, wonder if he will go to kindergarten next fall. At that point, he may be ready to have a more normal life again, and possibly all this time spent at home with dad (even if it's playing video games) will be a bonding/comfort thing and he'll feel more at ease going back to school and carrying on with his childhood.

I would just keep doing what you are doing and remain supportive and there for your friend's family. Offer to take the boy on outings, and see about arranging playmates to come over and hang out on occasion.

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#8 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 04:02 PM
 
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Another vote for "let it go and keep doing what you're doing." I'm with you that video games may not be the best choice of activity, but I disagree that it's not processing. Being with his dad is the best thing for him right now I'd think.

For the plans - eh. That first year of grief is awful. Quite often people do cancel plans because they are overwhelmed or numb or whatever. I know you have lost a friend too, but that is still a different transition into becoming a widower and a single parent. I would not take this as a sign or an insult. Also, it's the holidays. This is a terrible time of year for people who have lost a third of their immediate family. Ease up, is I think what I'm saying.

Stick around and if it's still a problem next year maybe that's the time to bring it up.

I found it interesting you are one of the few friends of the mum who isn't perceived as having judged the dad. You know, he can be a great dad and be introverted and into video games. If that what he's into, it's not likely to change any more than a sports nut would give up sports or a yoga fanatic yoga. It's kind of sad that the other friends have forgotten that parents don't come in a one-size-fits-all category.

But you can see what the result will be if you go down that road - he'll cut you off next. And as the dad, that's kind of his right, although I certainly hope he doesn't - you sound like a great friend. I'm sorry for your loss.

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#9 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 04:20 PM
 
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I don't think there's any problem with a non-parent offering advice or concern, especially when one is obviously so close to the family. In this situation, however, I think it's best to leave it alone for a while. My family fell apart in some ways when we lost our son. The big one wasn't video games - it was movies. We went from being a 1-2 movies a week family to watching 2-3 a day. I couldn't function properly. I couldn't parent properly. I stuck my kids in front of videos all the time. Children are very emotionally demanding and when the well is empty...it's empty.

And, now...we're still watching too many movies - more than before Aaron died. But, we're way down from where we were in the first 3-6 months. Because the dad in your OP is a fairly obsessive video game player, I could easily see this becoming a real problem, but right now? Grief is devastating, and I don't think there's any way to change the way any individual person handles it. It sounds like the dad and his son are spending a lot of time together, and that's a really good start for both of them.

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#10 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 04:45 PM
 
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#11 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 04:52 PM
 
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I don't have any experience with this situation, but this post really touched me, and I just want to give you a big for being such a good friend and stable force for these guys right now. The fact that the dad still trusts you after he has turned away from so many other people means that you are truly doing what you need to for them. They are very, very lucky to have you in their lives.

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#12 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 05:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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For the plans - eh. That first year of grief is awful. Quite often people do cancel plans because they are overwhelmed or numb or whatever. I know you have lost a friend too, but that is still a different transition into becoming a widower and a single parent. I would not take this as a sign or an insult. Also, it's the holidays. This is a terrible time of year for people who have lost a third of their immediate family. Ease up, is I think what I'm saying.

But you can see what the result will be if you go down that road - he'll cut you off next. And as the dad, that's kind of his right, although I certainly hope he doesn't - you sound like a great friend. I'm sorry for your loss.
Oh, I don't really fault him for canceling plans. I really do understand that. I just said that because I was explaining that it pretty hard for me to be in charge of getting the kid together with his friends.

I don't think it's necessary for me to "ease-up." I don't think that I've been harsh, I guess maybe in my thoughts but certainly no in my actions towards them. And if I do ever get to the point of saying something, it will be very gentle.

I also do believe that it is his right to have his kid around who he wants. Some of the moms friends feel that they have a right to be in his life now, to help take up the space where his mom used to be. I don't feel that it's a "right" for sure! I do think that it would (and hopefully will be) nice for him to have a relationship with his moms old friends in the future.

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I don't think there's any problem with a non-parent offering advice or concern, especially when one is obviously so close to the family. In this situation, however, I think it's best to leave it alone for a while. My family fell apart in some ways when we lost our son. The big one wasn't video games - it was movies. We went from being a 1-2 movies a week family to watching 2-3 a day. I couldn't function properly. I couldn't parent properly. I stuck my kids in front of videos all the time. Children are very emotionally demanding and when the well is empty...it's empty.

And, now...we're still watching too many movies - more than before Aaron died. But, we're way down from where we were in the first 3-6 months. Because the dad in your OP is a fairly obsessive video game player, I could easily see this becoming a real problem, but right now? Grief is devastating, and I don't think there's any way to change the way any individual person handles it. It sounds like the dad and his son are spending a lot of time together, and that's a really good start for both of them.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I'm so sorry for your loss! That was a very comforting post to me. And thank you for pointing out that the fact they are spending time together is positive even if it is with video games. That is good perspective to be reminded of.

What helped you when you were going through this? Did you like other distractions? Or having people take the kids? One friend wants to sign the kid up for swim lessons with a friend but the dad is not finishing the paperwork, I think he wants to do it, he's just having a hard time following through and I don't want to push him too much.

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Before I was a parent, I saw child-rearing as a black and white thing...some things were wrong, some things were right, based upon my observation (from afar) and reading. I knew exactly how I would deal and cope with situations. It was all so easy.

After I became a parent, I saw a million shades of grey that changed from day to day, and that sometimes you have to let go of the battle to win the war.

I really think you should let things be.
Ouch, that kind of hurt. That is certainly a black and white answer.

And just to be clear, I'm asking for advice because I'm not the parent of *this* child.

I don't see this situation as black and white, at all. In fact, I'm totally lost. That's the reason I came here to ask.



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I don't have any experience with this situation, but this post really touched me, and I just want to give you a big for being such a good friend and stable force for these guys right now. The fact that the dad still trusts you after he has turned away from so many other people means that you are truly doing what you need to for them. They are very, very lucky to have you in their lives.
Thank you so much. You know, I always think it's silly when someone asks for advice and then they get all butt-hurt when people give them honest opinions but some of the replies really kind of hurt my feelings. So anyway, thanks for the kind words.





I don't remember who mentioned it but I know that my grief is nothing like theirs. nothing. It doesn't even register on the scale and I certainly don't think it gives me any rights or leverage for decision making. I do respect their process, whatever it may be, but I don't think that they should just be left alone, I guess. I can totally appreciate that it is too early to do anything right now. Like I said, rationally I know it's really fresh, but sometimes I forget and feel like "come on, let's get off the couch today!" I want to help them when they're ready.
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#13 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 06:12 PM
 
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its been a few weeks. I think it sounds like they are doing fine. they sound like they are surrounded by people who love them and are willing to let them cope however they see fit. a preschooler and his DS, not at all uncommon around here.

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#14 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 06:58 PM
 
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Oh, I don't really fault him for canceling plans. I really do understand that. I just said that because I was explaining that it pretty hard for me to be in charge of getting the kid together with his friends.

I don't think it's necessary for me to "ease-up." I don't think that I've been harsh, I guess maybe in my thoughts but certainly no in my actions towards them. And if I do ever get to the point of saying something, it will be very gentle.

I also do believe that it is his right to have his kid around who he wants. Some of the moms friends feel that they have a right to be in his life now, to help take up the space where his mom used to be. I don't feel that it's a "right" for sure! I do think that it would (and hopefully will be) nice for him to have a relationship with his moms old friends in the future.





What helped you when you were going through this? Did you like other distractions? Or having people take the kids? One friend wants to sign the kid up for swim lessons with a friend but the dad is not finishing the paperwork, I think he wants to do it, he's just having a hard time following through and I don't want to push him too much.













I don't remember who mentioned it but I know that my grief is nothing like theirs. nothing. It doesn't even register on the scale and I certainly don't think it gives me any rights or leverage for decision making. I do respect their process, whatever it may be, but I don't think that they should just be left alone, I guess. I can totally appreciate that it is too early to do anything right now. Like I said, rationally I know it's really fresh, but sometimes I forget and feel like "come on, let's get off the couch today!" I want to help them when they're ready.

Grief is hard to watch. It is also hard to process, and some of what I see in your posts does seem like some of your own processing of your friend's death. You want to DO something, to "fix", and make things okay again.

Understand that I'm saying this as someone still dealing with grief myself. We lost my mom, age 50, last year right before Thanksgiving, after a very short 13 month battle with cancer. My dad was 52. They had been together since they were 14 and 16; after 32 years of marriage they were still the kind of "in-love" best friends that storybooks literally are made of. Their eagerly-awaited grandchidren (a boy and a girl) were 24 and 18 months old when she left us. Yesterday I was at my dad's house and saw a snapshot of the two of them, taken about two years ago, on their bikes in the mountains together. I will never see that kind of joy on my dad's face again. He's an amazing grandpa. Wonderful with the kids, playful, the best Papa on earth, even now. But, it's visible, how much he hurts that she's not there enjoying the moments with him. And Christmas coming up.... there are no words.

It hurts you, to have lost your friend. To understand how truly different your interactions would be with her son if she was there. And the perspective you're getting from all of the friends that were hers is the same. My mom had many friends, very, very close ones. They are incredibly loving, wonderful members of the family. They try so hard to take care of my dad now, but it just hurts him so much because he always spent time with them with her.

Things with that relationship, and that child, are NEVER again going to be normal in the way that normal is in your head. In time, a new normal will emerge, both for the family, and for your friendships with these people you shared with her.

Sharing video games with his dad on the couch for even a year is not going to permanently hurt this child in any way. Nor will swimming lessons or going to the beach create a significant improvement. The situation is what it is. Time will work as it always does, in its own way, and not in ours. He needs his dad, and WHATEVER his dad offers much, much more than he needs anything else.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. It is just hard. And it's harder still that you feel like you should DO something about the situation (which in reality is part of your own grief, trying to "DO to get through.") But it is what it is. Love on them. Be there. Go to the beach when/if they're ready. But be patient. Much, much more patient for much, much longer.
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#15 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Grief is hard to watch. It is also hard to process, and some of what I see in your posts does seem like some of your own processing of your friend's death. You want to DO something, to "fix", and make things okay again.

Understand that I'm saying this as someone still dealing with grief myself. We lost my mom, age 50, last year right before Thanksgiving, after a very short 13 month battle with cancer. My dad was 52. They had been together since they were 14 and 16; after 32 years of marriage they were still the kind of "in-love" best friends that storybooks literally are made of. Their eagerly-awaited grandchidren (a boy and a girl) were 24 and 18 months old when she left us. Yesterday I was at my dad's house and saw a snapshot of the two of them, taken about two years ago, on their bikes in the mountains together. I will never see that kind of joy on my dad's face again. He's an amazing grandpa. Wonderful with the kids, playful, the best Papa on earth, even now. But, it's visible, how much he hurts that she's not there enjoying the moments with him. And Christmas coming up.... there are no words.

It hurts you, to have lost your friend. To understand how truly different your interactions would be with her son if she was there. And the perspective you're getting from all of the friends that were hers is the same. My mom had many friends, very, very close ones. They are incredibly loving, wonderful members of the family. They try so hard to take care of my dad now, but it just hurts him so much because he always spent time with them with her.

Things with that relationship, and that child, are NEVER again going to be normal in the way that normal is in your head. In time, a new normal will emerge, both for the family, and for your friendships with these people you shared with her.

Sharing video games with his dad on the couch for even a year is not going to permanently hurt this child in any way. Nor will swimming lessons or going to the beach create a significant improvement. The situation is what it is. Time will work as it always does, in its own way, and not in ours. He needs his dad, and WHATEVER his dad offers much, much more than he needs anything else.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. It is just hard. And it's harder still that you feel like you should DO something about the situation (which in reality is part of your own grief, trying to "DO to get through.") But it is what it is. Love on them. Be there. Go to the beach when/if they're ready. But be patient. Much, much more patient for much, much longer.
Thanks! What you said is definitely true, it is hard to watch. And I am a "do-er" and I've been very aware of that through this whole process making sure that when I do something that will affect them, that it is for them, and not for me. That was a huge thing that got the door slammed on a lot of people, they all came in with their own agenda to meet their own needs. It was a hugely frustrating thing for the dad.

I guess I'm surprised that no one thinks that playing video games instead of human interaction won't be damaging. I know that seems dramatic and he is interacting with his dad, but that is the only person. I had another kid with me last time we were together (a friend of his) and they couldn't really play because he would only talk about gaming and the other kid got tired of it. To me, it seems important to get to continuing relating to these kids that he has been friends with. If he doesn't play with them for a year or two, I can't imagine that it will be very easy for them to rekindle their bond. I could totally be wrong.

And, his dad is completely emotionally exhausted and spent. It seems like he might need some time to process without his son. It's starting to seem like unhealthy coping to me but maybe it's too early to decide that, as many of you have said

And yes, it's something that's very hard to deal with that it will never be the same as it would have if my friend was still alive
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#16 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 08:20 PM
 
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Thanks! What you said is definitely true, it is hard to watch. And I am a "do-er" and I've been very aware of that through this whole process making sure that when I do something that will affect them, that it is for them, and not for me. That was a huge thing that got the door slammed on a lot of people, they all came in with their own agenda to meet their own needs. It was a hugely frustrating thing for the dad.

I guess I'm surprised that no one thinks that playing video games instead of human interaction won't be damaging. I know that seems dramatic and he is interacting with his dad, but that is the only person. I had another kid with me last time we were together (a friend of his) and they couldn't really play because he would only talk about gaming and the other kid got tired of it. To me, it seems important to get to continuing relating to these kids that he has been friends with. If he doesn't play with them for a year or two, I can't imagine that it will be very easy for them to rekindle their bond. I could totally be wrong.

And, his dad is completely emotionally exhausted and spent. It seems like he might need some time to process without his son. It's starting to seem like unhealthy coping to me but maybe it's too early to decide that, as many of you have said

And yes, it's something that's very hard to deal with that it will never be the same as it would have if my friend was still alive

He may not rekindle the bond he had with the children he knew before his mom died. He probably won't. It's sad. It's unfair. I don't know why life is like that, but it is. His mom is not here to keep him in the loop of those relationships, and she's not coming back to check on how it's going, either. People take all kinds of things with them when they die -- everything that would have been how it was if they were alive often goes, too.

I am not trying to sound harsh. I've just experienced enough of it, going back well before my mom.

You are not just grieving for your friend's company. You are grieving for the entirely different life her little boy would have had if she had not died.

Dad is probably never going to reignite the relationships with his wife's friends and family members. At best, he'll keep a little in touch with those he doesn't feel judged by. Most men with young children who lose their wives find someone new within a year or two, remarry, and live a life that is really quite far removed from old friends. Be careful what you wish for getting Dad out of the house. I know more than one former wife's best friend, in your same role, who was complaining about Dad's "new UAV" within 6 months. Actually, my mom's sister's husband never worked or dated again, played video games and watched movies for years, smoked himself literally to death, and orphaned their three kids when they were still teenagers. The kids are all beautiful, functioning adults now with nothing but fond memories of their dad and the valuable time they spent with him. And he was not the caring, involved dad that your friend sounds like. They're all trying to stop smoking now, but all have jobs and relationships and lives away from the television.

Is a year or two of solid video games the new gold standard for child development? Of course not. Is it going to damage him worse than having lost his mom? No. And maybe it does hamper the relationships you wish he had, but, as a second grade teacher, I can tell you with 190% certainty that he is not going to be forever alone in the world with no children to talk to about that interest.

You are doing an amazing service for this man and his little boy. Just be careful with yourself. Emotionally, you DO have an agenda. You do have a picture in your head of how you think it should be going, and what healthy looks like. You do have an emotional agenda for this little boy. You think you know how he should be "processing", and who he should be spending time with, and that he should be getting back to "normal" 4-year-old boy things -- or at least the things that his life was before this happened.

Life is not going to go back to that. Ever. That is sad and horrible, and worth crying over. But you can't change it. And if you push to change it, Dad will very likely cut you off in the same way he has cut off the others.

It is too early to decide if anything is unhealthy coping. And the (harsh) reality is that as long as the child's basic needs are met, and dad is coherent and attending to him, even if it is unhealthy coping, there is nothing you can do about it.

You are clearly very involved with this family. Your help, I am sure, has been very invaluable to them in this time of need. At some point, though, you do need to understand that this is their family and that they are going to do this their way. Making the transition from mom's best friend who had inside access to all of the goings-on and whose advice was valued, to "outsider" helping dad as much as possible is a rough one. Your friend is no longer there to validate your advice and experience. And you need to undestand that getting through THAT part of it is also going to be a part of your own grief process.
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#17 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 09:08 PM
 
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In addition to everything else said here, he's 4? When I was 5 I had a best friend, and then she moved and we never saw one another again. However, as of a few months ago I found her on Facebook and we're in touch. Rekindling of even early-childhood friendships is pretty easy nowadays, if it's really worthwhile.
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#18 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 09:33 PM
 
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Do you think that perhaps you feeling posessive of them is tempering your view a bit? You mention there are other friends wanting to be involved in their lives, but that is wrong until some point in the future Wheras I presume you feel that *you* are the right person right now.

You are going through grief now too, especially if you lived with them. A need to feel like you can change things, as unrealistic as it may be, may be part of that grief.

May I also add, which you may already know, you haven't said how old your child(ren) are, that 4 year olds are often quite obsessive about anything that takes their interest. Dinosaurs, legos, ect. My kids were all obsessed with Star Wars and Mario from the ages of 3 and 4 on, despite getting 30 minutes of Wii time *a week* at that age. They made up stories, poured over game manuals, wrote their own how to books, and talked about it so constantly that I felt (rightly so, except for other moms in the same boat!) that other people might assume that that's all they did.

It has been 3 months since this man lost his life partner, and this boy lost his mom. 3 months. It's only been 3 months since you lost your friend. I am sure, being a "doer" that you want to do something that will make things better. But you CAN'T. That is not in your power. *You cannot make things better for them right now*. Even if you were to obliterate all consoles from teh face of the earth forevermore.

I think you need to keep gently supporting them as you have been. I also think that perhaps you might want to consider forming some community with mom's other friends and encouraging their involvement as well. That way you don't get tricked into feeling that you should have more control than you ought, and so that perhaps you can see that it's okay if other people share in helping to care for the family left behind. Very hard to let go when it's most comforting to feel like you have some measure of "in chargeness".

But I think if you keep thinking that it's your place to stop this or have some say in it, and you keep stuffing it, you may do something that hurts the relationship you have with this family. It's really easy to do when you think of yourself as primary support. You may very well be, but it's always good to enlist and allow backup. Even though it's hard and scary.
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#19 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 09:39 PM
 
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Is a year or two of solid video games the new gold standard for child development? Of course not. Is it going to damage him worse than having lost his mom? No. And maybe it does hamper the relationships you wish he had, but, as a second grade teacher, I can tell you with 190% certainty that he is not going to be forever alone in the world with no children to talk to about that interest.
This.

The dad sounds a lot like my husband. With me around, we limit TV and video games. If something were to happen to me, that probably is how he would cope too. Gamer friends ARE people, and some of them may well have children of their own.

Do you know other 4-year-olds who ARE interested in video games? If you want to find new friends for this little boy, that is where I would start.

If/when you take him for a few hours, I would suggest the transitions recommended earlier. Let him know that you'll be doing something else, and then show him how fun that non-video game activity is.

Also, where are grandparents in this picture? Any chance that they are around and able to help out? Or that the boy could visit for a while?

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#20 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 11:24 PM
 
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I don't think it's necessary for me to "ease-up." I don't think that I've been harsh, I guess maybe in my thoughts but certainly no in my actions towards them. And if I do ever get to the point of saying something, it will be very gentle.

I also do believe that it is his right to have his kid around who he wants. Some of the moms friends feel that they have a right to be in his life now, to help take up the space where his mom used to be. I don't feel that it's a "right" for sure! I do think that it would (and hopefully will be) nice for him to have a relationship with his moms old friends in the future.
I mean in your thoughts, in terms of easing up. You've decided that a life with gamer friends playing video games is not right for this family - and although I think ideally there's definitely some truth in that, by deciding that and making it a symbol of illness that he doesn't want to go to the beach right now or that his dad isn't maintaining the playgroups you want, you are being quite harsh and judgmental.

Like StormBride I lost a child (in my case 4 days after her birth) and although I had lost a friend to leukemia before and experienced other kinds of grief, nothing knocked the wind out of me like that experience. People probably thought that after 3 months I should be doing X or Y, but it really takes much, much longer. That's what I mean by being harsh - you're trying to set a timeline for this family's reintegration into the kind of life you think they should be living. And again, I think that it is wonderful that you have been and still are being the friend you are.

But when I say ease up I mean both on yourself and on them. It is truly okay for them to be where they are right now. I read your subsequent posts and I see a lot of desire for this kid to pick up where he was. He won't. But it's okay, he will have a whole life ahead. But right now, he and his dad are hunkering down in a world where when you die you restart the game. I really really respect that you are hanging in there with them on their journey. Just try to have a little faith.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#21 of 29 Old 12-21-2009, 11:53 PM
 
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Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I'm so sorry for your loss! That was a very comforting post to me. And thank you for pointing out that the fact they are spending time together is positive even if it is with video games. That is good perspective to be reminded of.

What helped you when you were going through this? Did you like other distractions? Or having people take the kids? One friend wants to sign the kid up for swim lessons with a friend but the dad is not finishing the paperwork, I think he wants to do it, he's just having a hard time following through and I don't want to push him too much.
My situation was complicated by the physical recovery (long labour, emergency section). I really couldn't do anything for the first week or so.

What else helped? hmm...the big things were help with practical stuff. DH and I managed to look after the kids pretty well, but we were hopeless at cleaning and cooking and laundry. We'd just lose track of things. The kids needed things now, but other day-to-day stuff could get lost in the shuffle. I think with the swim lessons, it might we worth it to offer to just fill it all out, and shove it under his nose and say, "sign here". Filling out the simplest forms was almost overwhelming for me - I just didn't have that much focus and ability to concentrate.

Good luck. I think they're lucky to have a friend like you.

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#22 of 29 Old 12-22-2009, 12:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My situation was complicated by the physical recovery (long labour, emergency section). I really couldn't do anything for the first week or so.

What else helped? hmm...the big things were help with practical stuff. DH and I managed to look after the kids pretty well, but we were hopeless at cleaning and cooking and laundry. We'd just lose track of things. The kids needed things now, but other day-to-day stuff could get lost in the shuffle. I think with the swim lessons, it might we worth it to offer to just fill it all out, and shove it under his nose and say, "sign here". Filling out the simplest forms was almost overwhelming for me - I just didn't have that much focus and ability to concentrate.

Good luck. I think they're lucky to have a friend like you.
So, the part about the swimming lessons. That's how I tend to be And it was a very valuable skill back when she was dying and he could barely handle getting dressed in the morning. Now though, I feel like I need to step back and let him take care of his own business. Maybe it's too soon though, and he would still appreciate a little more aggressive help for things like that. It's very hard to know when pushiness will be appreciated! lol

I knew what to do when the crisis was in the moment. It's the long-term part that is harder for me to figure out, I guess.
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#23 of 29 Old 12-22-2009, 12:34 AM
 
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You could just ask him if he wants you (or the other friend) to fill it out for him. That leaves it a little more in his lap, but doesn't leave him dealing with the papers.

Three months isn't terribly long-term for something like this.

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#24 of 29 Old 12-22-2009, 01:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, thanks for all the thought out responses! I totally appreciate it. I want to respond to everyone and I'm not trying to argue or be stubborn in my pov, I'm just trying to really understand where you're coming from

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You are doing an amazing service for this man and his little boy. Just be careful with yourself. Emotionally, you DO have an agenda. You do have a picture in your head of how you think it should be going, and what healthy looks like. You do have an emotional agenda for this little boy. You think you know how he should be "processing", and who he should be spending time with, and that he should be getting back to "normal" 4-year-old boy things -- or at least the things that his life was before this happened.

Ok, ok. So I do have an agenda Actually, what I meant was that I try to make sure that my agenda is not just servicing my need to do something. That's all I was trying to explain. Because for sooo may people who came to help, that was all they were doing and it was specifically against the wishes of the husband and family.

As far as "normality" and hanging out with his old friends... Everyone that I have talked to (hospice people mostly) emphasize it soooo much. It is one of the only things that was repeated in every book that I read, to keep the kid involved in things that they were before. So I guess that's why I think that he should.


It is too early to decide if anything is unhealthy coping. And the (harsh) reality is that as long as the child's basic needs are met, and dad is coherent and attending to him, even if it is unhealthy coping, there is nothing you can do about it.

I don't mean to sound arrogant or like some sort of super hero (though I'd love to be ) but what do you mean by this? Myself and some other friends had to interviene with a common friend of ours when they were in a bad situation and it absolutely made a difference. She got help and she's living a much happier life. I'm not saying that I did that, but I think that people can help each other.

You are clearly very involved with this family. Your help, I am sure, has been very invaluable to them in this time of need. At some point, though, you do need to understand that this is their family and that they are going to do this their way. Making the transition from mom's best friend who had inside access to all of the goings-on and whose advice was valued, to "outsider" helping dad as much as possible is a rough one. Your friend is no longer there to validate your advice and experience. And you need to undestand that getting through THAT part of it is also going to be a part of your own grief process.
I actually wasn't her best friend and I think that it made it easier for me to be so closely involved. Now I'm definitely on the "inside" but I've never been a decision maker, I asked his dad before we did anything that might need "approval." We are in a strange transition right now and it does make it hard.

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In addition to everything else said here, he's 4? When I was 5 I had a best friend, and then she moved and we never saw one another again. However, as of a few months ago I found her on Facebook and we're in touch. Rekindling of even early-childhood friendships is pretty easy nowadays, if it's really worthwhile.

Wow, that's cool that you reconnected with your friend!

My thought was just that losing his mom doesn't mean that he also has to lose all his friends at the same time. Maybe I put too much value on a 4 y/o friendship.

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Do you think that perhaps you feeling posessive of them is tempering your view a bit? You mention there are other friends wanting to be involved in their lives, but that is wrong until some point in the future Wheras I presume you feel that *you* are the right person right now.

Hummm. I don't think that I'm feeling possessive at all. I would love for them to have more people involved. I'm the only one that he will answer the phone for (of her old friends) so that's why I'm the person. I'm glad that they have let me help them, SO glad, but I certainly don't think that others are not the right people to help.


It has been 3 months since this man lost his life partner, and this boy lost his mom. 3 months. It's only been 3 months since you lost your friend. I am sure, being a "doer" that you want to do something that will make things better. But you CAN'T. That is not in your power. *You cannot make things better for them right now*. Even if you were to obliterate all consoles from teh face of the earth forevermore.

Again, at the risk of having a super hero complex There are things I can do to make things easier for them. And I'm doing them. I take them dinner, I take the kid when I can, and I listen to her old friends cry so that he doesn't have to. These are all things that I know help them and I feel good about it. I know that I can't make it ALL better and I don't *think* that I'm trying to

I think you need to keep gently supporting them as you have been. I also think that perhaps you might want to consider forming some community with mom's other friends and encouraging their involvement as well. That way you don't get tricked into feeling that you should have more control than you ought, and so that perhaps you can see that it's okay if other people share in helping to care for the family left behind. Very hard to let go when it's most comforting to feel like you have some measure of "in chargeness".

He has slammed the door on all of her old friends. They all call me and cry about how he won't answer the phone. I mention to him that they would like to hang out with the kid, or whatever it may be and he gets mad and defensive because of old feelings about them.

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This.

The dad sounds a lot like my husband. With me around, we limit TV and video games. If something were to happen to me, that probably is how he would cope too. Gamer friends ARE people, and some of them may well have children of their own.

Oh man, I didn't mean to imply that gamers aren't people However, they aren't really the kids friends and they don't have kids. I mean really, they're my friends too, and I love them, but they don't offer much interaction with a 4 y/o.




If/when you take him for a few hours, I would suggest the transitions recommended earlier. Let him know that you'll be doing something else, and then show him how fun that non-video game activity is.

We do transition. I call ahead and when I get there I never just rip him away. I play with him for a while. Then I stop and go gather up his stuff, tell him we're leaving in x minutes and it's still a struggle. I know what it's like to be hooked on games (at least for me) and I know it's easy to forget that there's a whole real-life world out there and I get it that it's hard to be torn away and I also get it that the real world hasn't been so great to him lately. It doesn't really matter how fun the activity that we're going to do is but I do make sure that we always have fun so that he wants to come out into the non-digital world more.

Also, where are grandparents in this picture? Any chance that they are around and able to help out? Or that the boy could visit for a while?

They're shut out also and they're having a REALLY hard time with that. Her parents were very judgmental of him when they were first married (and they still are) and he cannot handle them.
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I mean in your thoughts, in terms of easing up. You've decided that a life with gamer friends playing video games is not right for this family - and although I think ideally there's definitely some truth in that, by deciding that and making it a symbol of illness that he doesn't want to go to the beach right now or that his dad isn't maintaining the playgroups you want, you are being quite harsh and judgmental.

Those were just examples. The only thing that seems like a problem is that they are only doing one thing all day. And isn't is a sign of illness when you don't want to do things that you used to enjoy?
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#25 of 29 Old 12-22-2009, 01:27 AM
 
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Those were just examples. The only thing that seems like a problem is that they are only doing one thing all day. And isn't is a sign of illness when you don't want to do things that you used to enjoy?
It can be. But it can also be a perfectly normal part of the grief process. Don't buy into the drug ads.

Or at 4, it can just be the age - my son doesn't enjoy the things he did three months ago a lot of the time, 'cause he's four and his tastes are changing quickly.

I'm not taking issue with you personally - I really admire how caring you are. But I do think that our culture has a script around how people are supposed to "move on" and my experience is it doesn't work that way and it is okay.

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#26 of 29 Old 12-22-2009, 01:39 AM
 
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Those were just examples. The only thing that seems like a problem is that they are only doing one thing all day. And isn't is a sign of illness when you don't want to do things that you used to enjoy?
Grieving can look a lot like mental illness. Irrational (or rational, for that matter) anger, lack of motivation/depression, denial, etc. etc. are all quite normal parts of the grief spiral. That doesn't make them signs of mental illness. It just means that grief, while a perfectly normal part of human experience, doesn't much resemble what we call "mentally healthy".

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#27 of 29 Old 12-22-2009, 12:36 PM
 
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Just a thought but could the transition thing be down to not wanting to leave his dad? I could see how they would both need to be physically near each other at the moment.

You sound like a great friend, just take it slowly and they will come out of the other end in time.

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#28 of 29 Old 12-23-2009, 05:11 PM
 
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First off, to answer your very first question: YES, it's absolutely ok for a non-parent to express concerns to a parent about a child's wellbeing. Some parents may not respect your opinion because you're a non-parent, but it is always always always ok for a CARING person to offer words of concern and support to someone they care about, regardless of who is who and what is what.

As for the specifics of your situation, I guess I would go at it from a whole different angle. Have you had any frank conversations with the dad about how he's feeling in general? How he's doing, does he feel he has the supports he needs, is he worried about anything? And then listen, since it sounds like you were friends before all this happened.

Then in another conversation, I'd tell the father what you've observed re: the son's time in video games, and maybe tell the dad that you're concerned because you know on the one hand that they're fun and that he seems to be having a good time playing them, but on the other hand sometimes being as immersed as the son is in the games can delay processing the major, monumental loss he's just experienced in losing his mom.

I'm not saying distraction and diversion isn't a totally appropriate thing to crave and have in this case - it is. But there IS such a thing as too much. And while you're not the person who gets to decide where the line is, as someone who cares about the son and the father, you DO get to offer some thoughts on trying to get the son to cut down on them, and also maybe going back to school (a new school), since socializing with kids his own age may also help him to process his loss and channel his energy into more productive things.

I lost my mom at a very young age, and while video games weren't really an option then I can definitely relate to the desire to immerse yourself in something that takes your mind off such a huge, giant life change and loss. But I'm SO GRATEFUL that my dad kept me focused on school and I stayed in close touch with my friends and tried to keep doing the things I'd done before.

It's totally understandable that dad is grieving and maybe he was a gamer to the point of contention in the marriage because he's got other things going on that gaming provides an escape from. But the truth is the pain and the hurt and the fears and anything else negative does NOT go away with more gaming... it just gets shelved in some ways but it's always there and it's always having an impact.

Ask your friend/the dad what he hopes for for his son, whether even in the midst of this big loss he's thought about what the best path is for his son to get the best life, and whether he'd consider helping his son to focus on some other activities as a way of giving him other channels to both learn and develop as well as process the loss.

Basically I'm mainly suggesting you talk to the dad, first about how he's doing himself, and then about how you know they're majorly grieving but you're also worried about the son not socializing with kids his age and going to school since those can be important ways for him to develop skills and behaviors that he's going to need as life goes along.

Last thing, maybe ask if you can take the son somewhere where a group of kids will be, and invite the friend and her kid who you said dad doesn't talk to. I'm not saying hide the friend from dad, but maybe just make it a group event and if dad asks who's coming, you tell him, but otherwise it's just a day in the park with a bunch of kids.... if the son really enjoys seeing that friend again, then mention it to dad and ask if they can have a regular play date.

It's all about checking in with dad on a lot of things, but mainly acknowledging how incredibly difficult this all must be and asking how he's doing.
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#29 of 29 Old 12-23-2009, 08:06 PM
 
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One other thought, you mentioned that the father is not working right now. Is he anticipating working in the near-ish future? I wonder if he is deliberately trying to spend extra time with his son until he starts working again. And if that's the case, wouldn't the situation resolve naturally when the father starts working again and the son needs to go to some sort of daycare? Or at any rate a nanny or babysitter who probably will not be a gamer?
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