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.