When it comes to the topic of their deceased son, Redditor Howmanykidsthrow and her husband are on different pages.
An interaction from the past with another parent forced the two to confront their clashing perspectives, and it is something she still thinks about on occasion.
So she visited the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit and asked:
“AITA for excluding my deceased son when someone asks how many kids I have?”
The Original Poster (OP) wrote:
“Throwaway. This happened a while ago but a recent event made me think about it again and I wanted to get an unbiased view.”
“My husband and I are parents to 3 kids, 2 living. Our oldest son (Josh) was killed in a boating accident when he was 6. My surviving son (Luke) was 4. A few years later we had a daughter (Ava). Luke is now 12 and Ava is 4.”
“Before quarantine I would bring Ava to mommy and me type classes and she also did a gymnastics class and we just started karate.”
“While hanging out it is normal to chit chat with the other parents. Because my boys were closer in age, everyone at Luke’s activities knew about Josh and it was never talked about.”
“With Ava the normal parent chit chat sometimes leads to people asking if Ava is our only. Sometimes I say I have 2 and other times I say I have 3. It really depends on the situation.”
“Back in January Ava had a playdate with a friend from our library group. I went over her house and I called my husband to remind him to pick Luke up from a friends house by noon.”
“The other mom asked how old Luke was and when I told her that he was 12 she commented on the age difference. Then she asked if Luke had a hard time adjusting from being an only to having a younger sibling.”
The OP’s first instinct was to avoid making the other person feel uncomfortable, but she would later learn that the topic of Josh would inevitably come up.
“I thought about bringing up Josh but I didn’t want to make things awkward so I just said, ‘That wasn’t an issue for us. Luke wanted a younger sibling and loves having Ava around.'”
“A few weeks later she came over to our house. We have pictures of Josh on the wall. Nothing crazy but family and school pictures. She saw one picture and asked who that was.”
“I said that it was my oldest son. She said she thought I only had Luke and Ava and I told her that Josh passed away and is hard for me to talk about still.”
“She was understanding and supportive but my husband overheard and after she left he accused me of trying to wipe away all memories of Josh. I told him I wasn’t trying to do that but in the past when I have casually brought up Josh’s death it always makes the other person uncomfortable.”
“I never said that Luke was an only child before Ava. I said that Luke didn’t have any jealously surrounding Ava’s birth and was happy to have a little sibling. That was true.”
“My husband said a lie by omission is still a lie and was very upset with me for trying to pretend that Josh never existed.”
“That is not what I am trying to do. We got into a big argument over it and he ended up venting to his parents who still think I am the a**hole over this. Did I handle the situation poorly?”
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors understood and sympathized with the OP.
“NTA. First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss. Love and hugs to you. I totally understand.”
“You don’t owe an explanation to anyone and you don’t have to tell your life story to everyone you meet. It’s a heavy subject to unpack every single time someone you meet asks you how many kids you have.”
“Your response sounds totally normal to me.” – powderedpancake
This Redditor said discussing the deceased is dependent upon the situation.
“I entirely agree. Coming at it from the opposite side of things. I had a brother who died before I was born. If people ask me how many siblings I have, I don’t usually include him in the count.”
“If it’s a more in depth conversation, I will talk about the fact he existed but it’s definitely on a case by case basis.” – quathain
This person who lost a sibling related to the OP’s reaction to inquiring minds.
“My only brother died when he was 29; I was 27. I’m 51 now and still get the any ‘brothers or sisters’ question in casual conversations.”
“I hate to deny his existence, but sometimes it’s easier to just say “no” and not derail a casual conversation into Debbie Downer territory.” – FabHckyBbe
Some family history is too complicated to delve into detail in a casual conversation.
“Yeah my brother died when I was in my mid 20s and sometimes when people ask if I’m an only child I say yes because if I say I had a brother but he died, a lot of the time they ask how he died.”
“The explanation for that is…….. a lot.”
“His death was investigated as a murder for over a year and then reclassified as an accident, in a city that immediately afterward caught a ton of heat for reclassifying unsolved homicides as accidents to make their stats look better.”
“Whether you call it a murder or an accident depends on who in my family you ask on which day.”
“As a bonus I occasionally hit an empathy-challenged true crime nut who gets excited about an unsolved mystery and starts pumping me for details.”
So yeah sometimes I just don’t bring it up. I try to acknowledge him and then change the subject so people don’t start digging but sometimes I’m just not up for it.” – i_want_to_ride_my
“Straight up? It boils down this: no one is privy to any personal information about your life, especially not virtual strangers you meet in the karate class waiting room, and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY not about your greatest life trauma.”
“OPs husband is being unreasonable.” – CATeach878
And speaking of her husband, this Redditor cut him some slack.
“I don’t think the husband’s an AH, really… It looks like they’re going through grief very differently, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s in the wrong.” – DancingCatflower
However, this person disagreed.
“I think the husband definitely became the a**hole when he got his parents to gang up on OP.”
“He’s entitled to grieve differently, but he shouldn’t dictate how OP grieves or how she speaks (or doesn’t speak) about their tragic history.” – predatorandprey
“It also makes me wonder if the husband has to have the same chit chats as OP.”
“If Op is the only one who has to have interactions with other parents the husband might not really have face the fact its a exhausting thing to have to go over this to everyone.”
“Its easy when only 2 new people a year ask you how many kids you have vs 2 new people a week.” – chanaramil
The general consensus on Reddit was that the OP was NTA and discussing her deceased son was up to her discretion if and when she felt the situation called for it.