My 2 year old daughter caught me crying one night. She grabbed my leg, squeezed it and held tight. “It’s alright Mommy, it’s alright”. Her voice was so concerned, yet soft and soothing. She didn’t know why I was crying, she just held my leg and stroked it so lovingly and gentle. As I do to her when she cries.
I hung up the phone.
“Mommy, you’re crying!”
“Yes hunny. Mommy got some very sad news.”
I left it at that for the time being because I didn’t know how I was going to explain to my two year old daughter that her GG’s dog passed away. How do you explain death to a toddler. I didn’t want to frighten her, but I didn’t want to sugar coat it for her either. How was I going to do this? This I figured was one of ‘big talks’ that I was going to have through out my life time with my daughter. I hope the sex talk doesn’t come up for a few years yet! Fingers crossed.
The next day, she asked me again why I was crying. It surprised me that she had remember because it was such a brief moment with no details, but I guess when Mommy cries, it’s something to remember. Isn’t it curious what a toddlers mind will remember.
This, being the first time to have a rather important talk with my daughter, I approached it like a grown up subject. I made some tea and we sat her table and I did my best to explain death. I answered her questions the best I could.
It went better than I thought, but I’m not sure how much actually got through.
I told her that she wouldn’t be seeing Abby anymore. She looked rather upset, then she asked, ‘When can I say bye?” Her innocent eyes just looking at me, waiting for me to answer her simple, yet complex question. I explained, “Sometimes we don’t always get to say good-bye to the ones we love. Sometimes they leave us before we have that chance, that is why you should always tell those you love, that you love them very much.”
She sipped her tea. “Mommy, will you always say good bye to me?”
This nearly broke my heart. I had a big lump in my throat.
“I will always say good bye to you, and I will always say I love you!”
I think that kids understand a great deal more that we grown ups like to think they do. I didn’t know what to expect when I did my best to explain death. I am sure this won’t be the last time we discuss it, and each time I can paint a clearer picture for her.
The death talk turned out better that I thought, and I even learnt a little bit more about who my daughter is. I know when to treat her a little more grown up and when to let her be a child.
We spent the next week drawing and painting pictures for GG. “I want to make her smile Mommy.”
Maybe the hard and difficult talks aren’t as hard and difficult as we grown ups thing, maybe they appear to be hard because we know the full weight of what that knowledge contains. I don’t want to weigh my daughter or son down with anything before they are ready for it. But I am preparing my kid for the world one day at a time.