Young Widow Watches Sons Grow into Men

I am a mom of two boys. I am mom to two boys who do not have their father around anymore as a model. I am a mom who, beyond words, loves being a mom of boys.

When my husband died seven years ago, I knew that finding positive, male role models for my young sons would be one of the most relevant things I would do for them. My dad was there immediately for them. He shared a bond with my boys – he too lost his dad at a young age. He knew what it was like to grow up without a dad by your side. He always was there for my boys. He understood what I needed for my kids. Unfortunately, he died a little over a year ago.

Also after Dave died, my brothers stepped up. Both my brothers have families and struggles of their own. I am always amazed how each of them in their own way take the time to make a significant difference in my boys’ lives. Most of all, they are just themselves around my boys. They are just decent men, walking through their own journey making sure they are present for my boys. My youngest brother is a daily presence in their lives. He has become a father figure to them. He is honest, compassionate and always open to having them around. This is invaluable to them and to me.

My oldest son is 13 now. He was six when his dad died. Right before my eyes, he is turning into a young man. It is so amazing to watch. He has surpassed me in height, which was a very proud moment for him, and is beginning to develop his character and integrity.

Yesterday, I was privileged to be present in a moment when my son advocated for himself. He’s dealing with a struggle at school and I wasn’t aware of the depth of stress he was feeling. After a short conversation with a teacher after school, he shared his stress with me.

We were in the car leaving school and his emotions came out as he shared his struggle with me. His struggle was different than what we had just shared with the teacher. During the short conversation, she asked my son if he had felt heard. He nodded yes, but in the car it was obvious that he hadn’t felt heard.

We talked about it some more and I asked what he wanted to do and offered a few choices. He decided he wanted to share more with the teacher we had just spoken with, so we went back. She graciously gave us more of her time and my son shared the reasons he was struggling.

He spoke, not me. He shared, not me. He was honest and open with her…and even appropriate. She was lovely and compassionate and said the right thing at the right time. She listened carefully, gently gave guidance to him, and affirmed him and his feelings about the situation. He left feeling relieved and confident that he could handle the situation and that it would be better.

My heart was filled with gratitude in those moments and even now as I write. I am grateful for being able to witness as my son expressed himself. I am grateful to belong to a school community that believes in the dignity of children. I am grateful for a wonderful woman who took time to listen and be present to my son.

As a sole parent, it is so hard because I feel like my kids are shorted somehow because it is only my voice, my model, my character they see day in and day out. Yesterday, I was reminded that this is not entirely true. We are surrounded by people who try very hard to understand and who are willing to be there for my kids. I’ve worked hard to make sure of this, but most days, I don’t really witness the fruits of this labor.

Watching my children become who they will be is one of the greatest privileges in my life. In spite of the cards they were dealt, each of them still does his best each day. Watching my boy take another step toward becoming a young man is one of those moments I will treasure. Watching him advocate for himself with an adult, my heart was overcome with love and pride.

This journey we are on together, our journey of grief will be woven into every fabric of who they are. Yesterday, I saw a glimpse of the man my son will become…a man who despite his struggles will advocate for himself in a positive way. For today, this mom is very, very grateful.

“There is nothing more beautiful than the mantle of survivor.” Marianne Williamson

Chris Thiele 2011

Christine Thiele

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Christine Thiele is a free lance writer, middle school teacher, and a former professional and volunteer youth minister. She has written for The Journal of Student Ministries, YouthWorker Journal , Grief Digest, OpentoHope.com, is a contributing author in several Open to Hope books and The Widow's Handbook (to be released in 2014 by Kent State University Press). Along with her writing, Christine is raising her two lovely and energetic sons. Since her husband's death in 2005 from pancreas cancer, her writing has been focused on grief and healing issues. Read her blog at http://widowisland.wordpress.com/

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  • I love this post, Chris, because I relate to it. During the four years our grandchildren have lived with us, I have watched them grow into “almost adults” to adults. My twin grandchildren (one boy, one girl) will be 20 years old in February. Losing both parents, graduating from high school, and being sophomore in college have matured them. When they come home, I have to qickly adjust m conversation from teenage talk to adult talk. It’s wonderful!