Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

The Common Denominator

In the world of small talk, children are the common denominator.

Do you have kids? I have kids? Aren’t kids great? Kids are great. We now have something that ties us together, we both have kids. Let’s talk, talk about our kids.

I love kids. Kids are funny, they think I’m funny, they are easy to please, they can wear a princess dress and get away with it. Kids are great.

But our kids are not here.

And it tends to break my heart.

And although conversations about children are considered polite dinner conversation, broken hearts are not.

Perhaps that is why small talk now tends to make me a little nervous. I get itchy when the conversation turns to kids, afraid that I will get asked the dreaded question……

“Do you have children?”

I fashion an answer in my head……Should this person know my past? Do they deserve to know my past? What will my reply do to this light, casual, conversation?


Last night I was traveling with colleagues; only one knew my situation, seven others didn’t. The conversation during dinner turned….to kids.


Suddenly, the two dads, who had been searching all night for the common denominator, found it in their children. Their faces lit up talking about soccer games, swim lessons and fireworks.

I, on the other side of the table, wished I had the Wonder-Women capability to turn invisible.

Since I cannot turn invisible, I tried a mind-meld…..I looked at them both intensely and thought…

Please stop talking about your kids.

Please don’t ask me if I have kids…

It didn’t work so I tried it again….

Please stop talking about your kids…….

Please don’t ask me if I have kids……

In the end, I was one for one, they didn’t stop talking but they never asked me….perhaps because I buried myself in my phone, trying to collect my email.

Ironically, my phone decided to run out of battery at that time. I had nothing to do but sit there and hope they didn’t call on me.

Stupid phone.

And then the Creme’ Brulee came…..hello dessert, nothing diverts the conversation like dessert.

I wanted my Creme’ Brulee to have a hard, burnt, sugar-crusted top, kind of the way I was feeling; hard, burnt, go ahead, try and crack me.

Instead, the top was mushy and the creme was cold and funky tasting. Nothing to crack, only pudding to smush. I pushed it away and turned to another co-worker who was equally disappointed with the lack of Brulee’.

“Yuck,” I said, “What happened? It tastes like Sugar Smacks,” I said to my other dear-non-children-conversing-co-worker., “You know, the cereal with the frog? What was that frog’s name? He had a hat.”

And suddenly, the conversation about the best kids’ soccer camp stopped. Everyone wanted to know the name of the Sugar Smacks Frog.

My co-worker pulled out his i-phone, “Actually, it’s now Honey Smacks instead of Sugar Smacks. the frog’s name is Dig’Em.”

“Ah….Dig’Em!” said the man across the table. “Dig’Em was my favorite. So much better than Count Chocula.”

And the conversation turned to the best kids cereal.

Lucky Charms- they are magically delicious.

Kid Conversation: 1

Generation X trivia: 1

Creme’ Brulee: 0

Thank you Dig ‘Em.

6 thoughts on “The Common Denominator”

  1. You just reminded me of being a kid who had lost a parent and how I always hoped no one would ever ask me what my father did. How strange it is to be made uncomfortable by death, when surely that is the common denominator for all of us. Wish it weren't so. HUGS.


  2. A perfect description of how your children will always be with you. And all of us who loved them. You continue to educate and touch us all because of Jack and Sam. Thinking of you especially this month.


  3. I know exactly what you mean Heather. I feel the same thing about the grandparent question. What to say this time? Brilliant post, the way you captured that squirming feeling at the dinner table. As Samantha's birthday approaches we will surely be glad for the time we had with her as we share our loss across the dinner table.Love, Cynde


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