While we are all social distancing, a lot of us are finding ourselves spending a whole lot more time with our families.
For some, this means an increase in family time, which can include all kinds of things.
One family gathered around a box of family photos to reminisce, and the mood shifted when the dad found photos of his first wife and their children. You see, his first wife died when their kids were 4 and 1, and the dad met his second wife in a support group for people who had lost their spouses. She had a 3-year-old son at the time, and the two have gone on to have three more kids together.
He explains what made the moment so intense for everyone:
“We came across a couple of my first wife and my kids were emotional upon seeing that. I hugged them and my son said he thought that pain went away but seeing one particular picture brought everything back. I told him that I understood and sometimes feel that way too. My 22 year old said he feels that way sometimes too and then feels guilty because he loves our family and we wouldn’t have this family if his biological father was still around.”
Those were a lot of tough feelings for everyone … and, unfortunately, the feelings got harder from there.
The dad shared that later that night, his 16-year-old had a really hard question for him. “Later that night my 16 year old asked if I loved my first wife more than her mom. I told her that love doesn’t work that way. You can’t compare the two. She said, ‘Well like Landon said, if she never died you would have never had us. Would you rather that?’ I told her I couldn’t answer that.”
He also added, “I am happy with how my life turned out but there is no telling how my life would have turned out if I didn’t lose my first wife. I said, ‘Look. I am lucky enough to have fallen madly in love twice. Plenty of people go their whole lives without ever having that feeling and I had it twice. I count my blessings and try not to think about alternate timelines.'”
The dad said that after he said that, his daughter started crying and now won’t speak to him. This is really tough: What the dad said makes sense, especially to another adult. But what his daughter probably heard was, “I would be just as happy if my first wife had never died, even if it meant I wouldn’t have you.”
The dad opened up the conversation to Reddit, and plenty of people backed him up, pointing out that there’s no way this conversation could have ever gone well.
“If this was a younger child then by all means fudge the truth a little because it’s gonna be harder for them to understand but for a 16y/o your response was absolutely fine. She’s old enough to understand that life and love are extremely nuanced and there are rarely any black and white answers.”
People also pointed out that his daughter isn’t at fault for asking the question in the first place: “Yeah, she just wants to know that her existence is treasured and that she’s not ‘second place’ because you had no other option. It has nothing to do with your first wife. She wants to make sure you want her in your life.”
Another person added that maybe his daughter won’t get it now, but she might down the road:
“I think a 16 year old can understand love but not all of the nuances. That’s about the time where you have your first love and you get to know more about love as you love more people. So maybe she needs time to grasp it. To be convinced that two loves like that can exist simultaneously but be different.”
Other people have said that they’ve asked their parents similar questions and received similar answers:
“I once asked my mom who she loved more, my dad or me. She basically gave the same response as [the original poster] and I was upset. With time I realized I was a [expletive]. Kid will get over it; OP’s answer was excellent.”
A lot of people also think the dad definitely needs to go back in for round two (or three):
“I think that your teen is struggling with insecurity, and it sounds to me like you did your best to be honest but kind in your explanation to her. After all, there’s no way to really reconcile the two lives you had, and it’s sort of a question that shouldn’t really be asked, imo.
“I think that what you needed to do was reassure her that you love her, that she’s a happy and important part of your life, because that’s what she’s insecure about at the end of the day here – the idea that you’d ‘trade her’ for being with your first wife.
“I think you need to have a comforting talk with her.”
And for his part, the dad totally agreed. He noted, “Thanks. I probably could have handled it better but I was pretty caught off guard. I have been trying to talk to her all day but she is freezing me out.”
Hopefully, his daughter will understand in time and will also let her dad try to explain what he meant in more detail. This could be a really powerful moment of bonding for the two of them.
A widow chimed in with a truly excellent response as well:
“I understand where you are coming from.
“That being said, young people who have never been in and out of relationships don’t have a very good understanding of how the human heart works. They see the heart as a vessel of finite size, like a cup, that can only hold so much love at once. [It’s] why kids compete for love and affection, and want you to love [their] mom more.
“You need to explain to her that love makes your heart grow, like the Grinch. Every time you love someone new, your heart gets bigger to make room for the new love. Your love for her mom is not getting poured out to make space for the new family. That love is safe and sound, not diminished. Your heart has room for both and that won’t change.”