Piss-poor platitudes

There’s something about the intersection of the loss of a child and thoughtlessness that produces a dreadful lot of dreadful platitudes. But your child doesn’t even have to die — finding out that your child has an incurable disease or disabling condition can result in more horrible platitudes.

Some people will protest that, “Well, they mean well, so it’s really okay.” No. When someone says something cruel, or does something rude to another person, their “good intentions” don’t really amount to a hill of beans. Even using treacly god-talk doesn’t sugar-coat the insensitive words enough to make them palatable.

Finding out that you will have to learn how to do many things differently due to chronic illness or major disability involves some initial sense of loss for expectations of how life would be. But the situation is not analogous to having a child die. The parents have not “lost a normal child”. The child is not dead, but very much alive, and still loved. Furthermore, the child would not be “better off dead”.

Sometimes people pull out the platitudes because they want to “make things better”. But a few saccharine words is not going to help. The death of a child cannot be healed by the verbal equivalent of a bandage on a cut finger. When at a loss for words at the magnitude of someone’s grief, it’s okay to be honest and share that, “Oh, I’m SO sorry. I hardly know what to say.” And if you can’t think of anything further, then share a hug if these are hugging people.

After the initial shock, share memories of the child with the grieving parents, rather than trying to make the social “problem” go away by ignoring it. Don’t suddenly drop the parents of disabled children from social groups, as though the family has contracted something horribly contagious.

But please, don’t pull out the insensitive platitudes:

Don’t be so selfish; you still have your other child.

You can always have another one.

Children are not interchangeable, replaceable units, like dolls.

Having another child won’t somehow magically make a family “complete” — the family isn’t defined by the number of members, but by who they are. There will always be a sense of loss for the missing person.

God wanted the child with him.

What kind of deity is so selfish as to deprive parents of their child? What, God couldn’t have enjoyed the child’s presence more by watching it grow up with its family?

God’s punishing you for putting your desire to have children ahead of Him.

Make that selfish and vengeful. Where’s the “loving deity”?

It was God’s Will.

And you know this because … how?

Your child’s in a better place.

How is an early death better than a full life?

God never gives people more than they can handle.

Nonsense; there are plenty of people who have cracked under the strain of grief, falling to depression or sometimes even violence.

Everything happens for a reason.

True, there are causes for everything. True, people can create extra purpose in their lives in reaction to events that happen to them. But I cannot accept that a deity required a child had to die for its parents’ moral improvement.

Think of the money you’ll save; having one kid is cheaper than twins.

Oh for ~~ one doesn’t have children for budgetary reasons!

Guess what — I’m pregnant! It’s like God’s making up for the baby you lost.

Let’s blame the maternity hormones for that incredibly tactless, thoughtless remark, and hope that she has a full recovery.

Haven’t you gotten over that yet? You just need to pray more / work harder / think about others.

Grieving for the death of a baby or child is not something over and done in a few days. Really, one grieves for the loss of a loved one the rest of their life — it’s just that the grief becomes tolerable, and the memories more wistful than painful.

You’re lucky the baby died early — it could have been handicapped.

Being disabled is not worse than death.

It’s for the best — she / he would have suffered from being, ‘you-know’ … Retarded. Crippled. Deaf. Blind. Palsied. (et cetera)

Being disabled is not a life sentence of suffering.

Well at least you have your other, healthy child(ren). You could even try again.

If I have a disabled child, I am not about to discard them, nor decide that I have not succeeded in getting the “perfect” child that I deserve.

God gave you a special child to teach you something.

We all learn things from our children, and many parents find they learn unexpected things from children who have different needs. But such a platitude smacks of begin given a special-needs child as a prescription or punishment for a moral failing.

It’s just as well; so many sick preemies survive nowadays, and there’s too many special-needs kids being a burden on society.

The social burden is not special-needs kids.

The social burden is people who feel they have some special hotline to heaven. The social burden is people who think that death and disability are divine punishment for sins. The social burden is people who can only see the disabled as those who are a useless waste of public resources. The social burden is people who imagine that a disabled person cannot have a happy, loving, productive or even [otherwise] healthy life.

Andrea Knows Noodles

“Luck is like having a rice dumpling fly into your mouth.”
~ Japanese proverb

So. The eldest is in town for spring break and loves any sort of dumpling, so tonight I made cheese pierogi. This requires making the noodle dough, which after resting gets a few pressings through successively thinner bands in the pasta roller (the hand-cranked machine is not necessary, but it does make the job a little quicker). Of course, once an eighth of dough has been properly flattened, it has to go someplace safe and the countertop is full of other stuff, so I hang the two-foot long sheets over the backs of the dining chairs.

The sheets of pasta are then cut into circles (my official dough cutter is an old tin can with both ends cut off), filled with a bit of cheese mixture, folded and sealed shut, and then boiled for a few minutes before being served all slippery in butter. Somehow there are never any the next evening for dinner, because a pieróg (or two) sounds like the perfect midnight snack. Or breakfast. Or second breakfastes. Or brunch. Or lunch. Or a tea-time nosh.

After we stuffed ourselves with pierogi, to the point that we know to quit because our tummies are saying, “Enough already!”, contented sighing ensued, and after a while I got up to put away the leftovers.

And then I discovered a forgotten sheet of pasta draped over the back of my chair. Having leaned back against my chair, the dough was now stuck to the slats. “Why didn’t someone tell me there was still noodle on the chair?!” I asked incredulously. (What a waste of perfectly lovely noodles.)

Hubby indicated that he’d seen the dough there, but didn’t think I would actually sit on it. As if!

“There’s some stuck to your jeans, too …” added the eldest. I twisted around to look at my tuchis, and peeled more pasta off the waistband. ::sigh:: If you’re one of those people who has trouble with figures of speech, I will explain that is not really what they mean by food that “goes straight to your hips”. Cheese pierogi are fattening, but they are also dense, so there’s a limit to how many you can eat in a sitting.

Make these for your family. Heck, share the fun and make these with your family by having them help roll out and fill the dough circles — just keep an eye out for stray dough pieces. Like so many things, they take longer to make than to eat, but they’re not really very difficult. The sour cream dough is not only delicious, it’s also more tender than traditional egg noodles. Pierogi are Polish dumplings; I’m not Polish, but like our eldest, I never met a dumpling I didn’t like.


(“Pierogi” is plural; one dumpling is a Pieróg)

5 cups flour
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon salt

1 pound Farmer’s cheese, grated
1 egg
2 tablespoons minced parsley (optional)
black pepper, to taste
melted butter

Mix together the flour, eggs, sour cream and salt to make a dough. Remove to a well-floured board and knead until the dough is smooth. Cover and let rest in the fridge for half an hour until rolling out.

Tumble together the cheese and other ingredients. Cut dough into eighths for more workable quantities. Roll out an eighth as thin as possible, cut out a circle, put 1-2 tablespoons of cheese filling to the side of the center, fold over and crimp shut.

Cut any leftover bits of dough into long noodles and add them into the pot to cook. Gently drop pierogi into a large pot of boiling water, and let cook until they have been floating at the surface for a couple minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay in a heated platter, drizzling with melted butter; you can garnish with some more fresh parsley.