Sex, drugs, death. Conversations I’d honestly prefer to “paper, rock, scissors” with the hubby to avoid. Not because I’m embarrassed, but because I’m worried I’ll say the wrong thing. Topics I want to handle just right, and topics I feel could have been handled better by my parents.
Mom, I love you. You know I love you and think you did an amazing job raising us. But every child has things they want to do differently than their parents, if for no other reason than because I am a different parent than you are, parenting in a different generation and with a different child. We cool? Cool.
So when I casually reminisced at the breakfast table about something my grandfather used to say, I was caught off-guard when my two-year-0ld asked me, “Mommy, where is your grandpa?”
My husband and I believe in telling DoodleBug the truth. When we ask her to eat three more bites, we hold to three, even though I may want to sneak an extra on the plate when she’s not looking. We don’t dodge questions, and we follow through on consequences. She knows when Mommy or Daddy say something, we mean it; I like to think our consistency and honesty help her to trust us now and will foster open communication as she gets older.
And of course I would be the first parent to have to take this parenting value for a test-drive. Here’s how the conversation went:
DB: Mommy, where is your grandpa?
Me: Um…Well… (Looks around in desperation for help. Or a distraction. Nothing? Crap.)
Well, my grandpa isn’t around anymore. He lived a long life and was a daddy and a grandpa and when he got very, very old, his time was all done. He is all done. I miss him, but it’s okay that he’s all done, because even though people can’t be around forever, new babies are born and new grandmas and grandpas love those babies.
DB: (Stares at me. Silence. And then.) Mommy? Your grandpa’s all done? It’s okay. You can share my grandpa.
I want DB to feel differently about death than I did as a kid, and still do as an adult. I want her to understand that as hard as it is to close one chapter and open up the next, that’s the way life is; that without death, life wouldn’t be precious. I want her to know it’s okay to grieve loss, but to take solace in how life continues on. I don’t want to hide the truth from her to protect her, and yet I don’t want to scare her, either.
I spent the whole day replaying the conversation in my head, wondering if I had said the right thing. Then. That afternoon we were out on the back deck and she pointed to the flower pot.
DB: Mommy? Why are those flowers squished?
Me: Well, they are wilting because they are all done being flowers.
DB: All done like your grandpa?
Me: Yes, it’s kind of the same.
DB: Look, Mommy. There are new flowers that are going to come out soon, just like the new babies and grandmas and grandpas.
I *think* I may have knocked this one out of the park.