“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” Malachi 4:6
Your adult children have suffered a significant loss too. You probably have done what you could to comfort them and give them wisdom about life without their mother. However, the fact remains that they are without their mother and the things she used to do with them and for them. You need to continue to think about them and their needs, just as you did when they were younger. Your children may turn to you for more parental attention than if your wife were here, or they may pull away from you to deal with their grief, recovery, and adulthood in their own ways.
My wife had close relationships with our three children and their spouses. She would talk with them at great length about their wedding plans, apartment decorations, careers, and babies. At times I felt a little jealous about her attention to them, but I was happy to see the joy she and the children had in each other.
My wife had professional training in child development and parenting, and when our children became parents, she shared that expertise with our daughters and our daughter-in-law. Your wife probably related to your young children in ways you couldn’t. What trait of hers was most valuable to your children?
I think grandmothers are usually more nurturing than grandfathers, and mothers typically are more closely involved in their children’s lives than are the fathers. Mothers are often keener judges of kids’ emotional lives. Fathers sometimes want to know how they are doing in school and sports. But fathers and grandfathers play their own unique roles. Sometimes just “being there” either in person or on the phone or computer is needed. Above all, “being there” means paying attention and listening, even to some things you don’t understand. I have learned that my two-year-old grandchildren delight in my attention, even if they sometimes don’t seem to notice me. The older grandchildren need more concrete evidence that I’m paying attention.
When my children began to talk, I found that my wife could understand their fractured speech when I couldn’t. She would quickly translate what the child was saying. If your wife translated for you, it might be one of your treasured memories.
You are even more critical to your family as a father figure and grandfather figure now. You can’t control all aspects of how you are seen in the family, but rest assured: you are being noticed, watched, and remembered.
At Christmastime, three years after my wife died, one of my daughters began quizzing me on my wishes for my care when my health begins to fail. At the time, my health was excellent, but it would have been absurd to pretend that my mental and physical health would continue in the same condition for another thirty years.
Since then, I have talked with my children about some of my future hopes for health, independence, and adequate care if I decline gradually rather than die suddenly. It was a major step toward their taking over a parental concern for me. We did not resolve all the issues, but it was a meaningful conversation. I need to continue that conversation with my children as my age increases and my health changes.
If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to start a conversation with your children about your needs during the years ahead.
You can write Dr. Nyle Kardatzke via Facebook Messenger.