Thursday, March 24

One Hundred Years Old

Bethie is obsessed with death. We talk about it all the time. Not intentionally, but it seems to come up. Tonight, Dan said to the twins, "You can't keep waking your mother up so many times during the night because you're going to kill her". Bethie replied, "Is she ninety-nine, and is her birthday tomorrow?". Because, according to Bethie, only people who are 100 years old die.

My friend's father died. He was far too young. But we allowed Bethie to believe that he was 100 years old. She needed the security of knowing that no one she knows is going to die.

Then Melissa died. She was only 28. Again, we allowed Bethie to think that Melissa was 100.

The mother of a little girl in her class died. We reassured Bethie that this woman was sooooo much older than I am. Because Bethie lies in her bed and worries. I didn't want my child worrying about my death.

I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was protecting my five year old girl. Saving her from her own worries. I thought that it didn't matter if I allowed Bethie to believe that people have to be 100 years old before they die.

The kindergarten teacher sent a note home. There is a little boy in the twinnies' class that has just been diagnosed with a tumor on his brain stem. My heart aches for this little boy, and for his family, and especially for his mother. I can't even begin to imagine what this family is going through. His mother is at the Children's Hospital praying for the life of her child. And I am not a good enough writer to convey my sorrow.

All I know is that I don't want to explain to my daughter that children can die, too.


Heidi said...

Oh Gwen, this post just breaks my heart for so many reasons. There is no good way to shield our children from death and it seems to come up before we as parents have a plan of attack. The girls great-aunt died when Ava was 4 and we still discuss it almost two years later. I'm not a good enough writer either; my words are gone now. Hug to you.

Gwen said...

Heidi: Thanks! Death is a tricky subject because I want to be honest and upfront. I want her to not feel shy about discussing her concerns with me. But I don't want to overburden her. She's just little, and her heart is huge, and her concern for everyone else in the world is massive.

Bibliomama said...

Oh, I know -- Angus was the same. You don't have to apologize for anything you do to give your kids some peace (the people who say "I never lie to my kids" always seem sort of smug to me), even when it stops working. A child in my kids' school died of cancer last month, and one of Angus's baseball coaches has terminal brain cancer -- it's a lot to deal with. All you can do is talk about it as much as they need to.

3LittleMonkeys said...

Sorry to hear such sad prayers go out to the family. Our boys have yet to really ask about death but I know it will come up soon...and I'm not gonna lie, it's gonna be a tough conversation!

Nan | WrathOfMom said...

My library has a shelf of childrens books that my husband calls the "Books are Cheaper Than Therapy" collection. Personally, I want to sob every time I look at the books (they're about death, stranger safety, divorce, drug use), but they are a great resource.

I agree w/ Bibliomama about the smug I never lie parents. Kids need definitive answers, and if lying gives them peace of mind about death, then go with it.

Gwen said...

I completely agree with all of you when you say that you think parents are a wee bit "smug" when they say they never lie to their children. I try to be as honest as I can about soooo many things. However, my children are young and don't have the ability to truly comprehend the complexities of Life (or Death). Things get muddled in their little brains...and this causes them to worry. It's more important to me that they feel safe, and secure, and protected than it is for me to be 100% accurate. Having said that, I would like to buy a great big bubble that will protect their hearts and bodies from all hurt. Let me know if you come across such a thing!

Finola said...

I have always told my daughters that people don't die until they are very old, and I know that one day soon I will have to give them a bit more information. Lucky for us though that I haven't had to yet.
Oh, the heartbreak for the family of the little boy. I cannot ever imagine what that would be like.