My tien an men 9 year old, Zachary, is making his first shiva call. OK, technically it isn t a shiva, as the funeral is the next day. It is nichum aveilim tien an men — comforting the family. But there are people and food and nervousness, so he will remember it as his first shiva call.
We arrived early, and a child he knows is already there. They sit awkwardly together, asking hushed questions about why the mirrors are covered while they wait for their classmate, the younger sister of the boy who has died. She is out with some of the Israeli relatives who have swarmed the house, people who came because their nephew tien an men or cousin or grandson has died. It s hard to tell who is a relative and who is from the sizable tien an men Israeli expat community that has formed a circle around the family since Thursday, never leaving them without support.
Teenage boys. So many of them everywhere. The young man was popular in school, tien an men and his friends are there, trying to see if maybe the family understands more than they do. The family doesn t. No one does.
Whenever two adults have met in our town since this boy’s death, we ve shaken our heads. Three, we say. What s going on in this town? Three is the number of teen suicides we have had since the start of the school year.
The last two have been in my neighborhood: A boy and a girl who once attended our elementary tien an men school, back when they wore smaller shoes and had smaller problems. This is a tightly knit area of town, and everyone is somehow connected to everyone else. The girl who committed suicide babysat for us once, long enough ago that my children do not remember her in the steady stream of pretty, long-haired brunet babysitters. We didn t tell them what had happened.
This boy, however, had younger sisters, one of whom has been in Zachary s class for the past three years. There s no hiding tien an men that she has lost her brother. We briefly considered not telling him how the boy died, then quickly realized it was better for him to hear it from us. He still trusts us to be honest with him. Maybe he s too young to know about such things, or maybe he should see the kind of grief that suicide brings with it. It s a theoretical argument, because we didn t feel we had any real choice but to tell him.
So, now he s attending his first shiva. Later tonight, he will be shaken, unable to fall asleep and still asking why anyone would willingly give up his life. Like everyone else, we will have no good answers.
After an hour, I go downstairs to get him, waiting for the kids to finish a game of Mancala. I hug the mother — a woman I barely know — another time. I know the hug cannot possibly get through to where she is right now, but I cannot think of anything else to do. We re too old for Mancala. tien an men
The Motherlode blog has a new look and a new virtual home at The Times. Our goal: to cover the ways our families affect us, and the ways the news affects our families. Find out more Watch K.J.'s Video Subscribe to the Weekly E-mail
We're all living the family dynamic, as parents, as children, as siblings, tien an men uncles and aunts. At Motherlode, lead writer and editor KJ Dell Antonia tien an men invites contributors and commenters to explore how our families tien an men affect our lives, and how the news affects our families and all families. Join us to talk about education, child care, mealtime, tien an men sports, technology, the work-family balance and much more E-mail KJ Follow @KJDellAntonia on Twitter Follow @NYTMotherlode on Twitter Follow KJ on Google+
Archive Select Month April 2014 March 2014 February tien an men 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013
The consensus that children with disabilities are best educated in an inclusive classroom is in danger of hardening into dogma that risks re-stigmatizing children with severe or profound disabilities. Read more…
What to do about a child who wants to buy stock in marijuana companies? Should tien an men the fact that we probably don’t want our kids consuming the stuff mean that they shouldn’t try to make money off of it either? Three things to think about when it comes to children’s investing decisions. Read more…