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August 30, 2012

Where Is Heaven on the Map, and Other Tough Questions Posed by Three-Year Olds

We lost one of our kitties to kidney failure when the girls were about 15 months old.  I can’t imagine they remember him, but they see pictures of him and hear us talk about him.  They know that “Misha is in Heaven”.

At first they were satisfied with that explanation.  Over the past few months, they’ve started to ask why Misha moved to Heaven…when can we go visit him…and most recently Baby A asked, “Mommy, where is Heaven on the map?

I have explained as best I could that Misha was very sick, and that he went to Heaven to be with God so he could feel well again.  Whew.  I want to be careful that they don’t think “you go to Heaven” when you get sick…as in, catch the flu.

[I remember my little cousin, when she was about five, lost her dog.  Her parents told her that they had to put the dog to sleep and that he was buried behind the vet’s office.  A few months later she had to have a medical procedure, and her parents explained the doctor would put her to sleep.  She became hysterical, screaming, “I don’t want to be buried behind the vet’s office!  That impressed upon me how careful I need to be with my words!]

As to the geography question, I explained to the girls that Heaven is a very big concept, one they’ll understand better when they get older.  It’s a place in our hearts and in our minds.  We can’t take an airplane to get there.”

We’ve had that conversation a couple of times this week, and they seem to be trying to grasp it…at least relative to a three-year old level.

The girls are full of tough questions these days.  Last week they saw someone holding a sign, begging for money (a rarity in this area).  Sometimes people don’t have enough money, and they need to ask other people for help,” I told them when they asked why he was holding his sign by the side of the road.  I tied back to how we donated our old refrigerator, and we cleaned out our closets recently, giving those things to people who needed them.

If he needs money, why doesn’t he go to school to work?” Baby A asked.  [The girls know their daddy goes to school to work to make money for the things we need.]  Whew.  Another toughie, for sure.

Other challenging subjects over the past couple of weeks have been adoption, government, and taxes.

Seriously?  You’re three.  I didn’t expect to have to address the hard stuff for at least another couple of years!

I’m glad the girls are curious, that they’re trying to understand.  I just hope my mind can form the right words to explain things to them…keeping at an age-appropriate level, and protecting their tender hearts, too.  At the same time, I don’t want to sugar-coat the world for them.  I can only say I’m doing my best to approach subjects with an open mind and an open heart, my ultimate hope that they will form their own opinions one day.


Beth said...

Yes. This is very hard. Luckily, some of our kids cousins are adopted. They are international (2 boys from Korea and a girl from Guatemala)so they clearly differ from my blond haired blue eyed SIL. They are all older than my kids, so adoption has always been a part of their world.

Our big struggle right now is this darn election! We live in a suburb of Cincinnati. Since Ohio is such a battleground, we have election commercials constantly. I try to avoid them, but Will has seen some and asks tough questions. I present what his father and I believe, but try to be respectful to both sides of the issue. I am so ready for this election to be over!

Eric, Marilyn, and Elliott said...

You're so right. It's incredibly difficult. Elliott was close to 4 when our dog died and I felt like every conversation was a potential minefield.
I also had a scary situation recently when a man suddenly came up behind me while I was strapping E into his car seat. He was well into my personal space, literally holding his hand inches from me and asking for money. I'm as generous as the next person, but I felt very threatened. While I was trying to close E's door and open up some space away from the guy, E kept opening the door, trying to talk to him, tell him his name, etc. It broke my heart, but I later had to have a serious conversation with him about how that may have been a bad guy and we need to be more careful. I wish you could know that you're using the right words.

Johanna Baker said...

I had almost the same exact post a few weeks ago... our kids are totally in sync. Mine even asked about government and heaven.

Deanna said...

Oh my word...I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling to answer the difficult questions! We have many conversations about God, Jesus, and heaven in our house. A & M have definitely reached the question stage, and they ask some good ones! "Why?" (or, as M says, "Why because?") is repeated many, many times a day right now.

Gotta love inquiring little minds! : )

Mandy said...

Wednesday was the first time ever E played the why game. It all started with a woman mowing her grass and somehow ended with "because we're going to grandma's!" It was rapid fire and I was starting to panic! Since when do 3 year olds interrogate?!

I really need to start reeling in what I say. The ladies don't quite get sarcasm yet [I wonder if they're mine] and sometimes my answer leave them far more confused then when they started. I'm also terrible concerned over the death issue because in our house there isn't heaven. I've been telling them that the dead bugs they've been finding are "no longer with us" but I'm not sure that will last much longer. Ugh!

I just need to find the manual these kids came with!

Carrie said...

Oh my. I continue to be amazed at the questions these girls ask. They are all so insightful, but answering their questions is so hard. When my grandma died, Sophie became so concerned about my mom, wondering how she would be without having her mom here. But when she asked me if I was going to die and she would be without her mom, I couldn't hug her hard enough. I hate that they are exposed to such tough concepts so early in life, but like you said, I don't want to shield them from everything and sugar coat life. Such a tough balance! Sounds like you had some good answers for your girls.

Barbara Manatee said...

We've fielded some tough questions here, too...especially in relation to the death of my brother and the kids' Great Aunt. Its so hard to put it in terms they can understand but not make it too heavy. Good job trying ot make it make sense for them and ease their worries.