Three is the age of questions, so they say, and The Prata Baby has certainly come out with some big ones so far - usually at the most awkward moments. A while back now we were riding the bus when he piped up with, "Mum, is there another little tiny baby in your tummy right now?"

All around us, bemused passengers turned to look pointedly out of their windows. "Right now?" I replied. "No there isn't. Why do you ask?"

"I want there to be another little tiny baby in your tummy," he said with conviction. "A little brother this time." My, my. Thanks for your input, I will take it on board.

It was only a matter of time before the big followup came. "How did Surprise Baby get made?" he asked one day, out of the blue. We were visiting family at the time.

"Um... what?" I responded, intelligently.

"How did she get in there?" he said, pointing, and then as if the question needed further clarification, he immediately rephrased: "How did she get into your tummy?" I told him that it was a bit complicated, and that he should ask me again at bedtime when it was just me and him and I had time to answer properly. He hasn't brought it up since, possibly because someone else got to him first. Later that day, I heard him explain to his toys, on his older cousin's authority, that the Baby Jesus had put Surprise Baby in my tummy. For a while I wondered if I should force a more scientific explanation upon him, but he seems satisfied, and I'll no doubt get my next chance too soon anyway.

Then yesterday, he came out with the hardest one of all, and at the most awkward moment imaginable. We were sitting at home, on the bed, just the two of us, with nowhere in particular to go in any sort of hurry. I saw it coming, like a horrible car crash, knowing that I had no excuse to dodge or escape; that I was going to have to answer in full, to PB's utter and unhurried satisfaction. "Boo used to say Dadda," he stated, repeating something Vee had said a few weeks before on our visit. "But why doesn't he say Dadda any more?"

He was grinning when he asked it, and I saw that smile slip from his lips as he took in my sombre expression. I took a deep breath. "Because a bit over a year ago, Boo's Dadda died," I told him gently, but simply.

"Died?" he asked.

"Yes. He got very sick. So sick, the doctors couldn't make him better again. Then he died. It's very sad."

The Prata Baby cocked his head on one side and considered this information calmly. Then he wanted to know more. Did Boo's Dadda go to hospital? Did they give him medicine? Did he sleep overnight at the hospital? Did the doctors cut his head open? (Mysteriously to us, PB has gained the knowledge that doctors sometimes open people's skulls to perform neurosurgery. The idea has, let's say, stuck with him.) I answered his questions calmly, gently, and truthfully. Yes, he went to hospital. They gave him a lot of medicine. He even slept overnight. But he didn't have the type of sickness that would benefit from having his head cut open so the doctors didn't perform that particular procedure, no.

There was a pause after that, during which PB fiddled thoughtfully with his fingers and I waited patiently for his next response. Eventually he looked up at me, studying my face, as if trying to figure out how to say what he wanted to say. Then in a small voice, he asked, "Mum, is Boo's Dadda going to come back to their place?"

And I had to tell him. "No, darling. When people die they don't come back."

Over the last twenty-four hours I've wondered why I didn't think to soften it a bit for him. If I can let him believe, without other explanation, that the Baby Jesus puts babies into people's tummies, surely I can let him believe - without other explanation - that Boo's Dadda "went to heaven" or some such thing. Or perhaps I should have added a few thoughts about the ways in which our loved ones stay with us after they die, even though they are no longer here in the flesh. I'm not sure. He seemed to cope alright with what I said, so perhaps it was best to stay blunt and simple for now. No doubt I'll get my next chance too soon anyway.


6 Comments

Serenity said...

The way you handled it is pretty much what I've read on how you SHOULD handle it. (Yes, I'm googling it because our cat is sick and I'm prepping myself for the eventual discussion.)

Age three is the age of literal, so I've read that the best way to handle it is to be simple and honest.

It's so interesting to me how parenting, now, is mentally draining. Like you, I often need time to process what to say when confronted with a question from O.

I think you did really well in the moment.

xoxo

Ellen K. said...

I think I would have said pretty much the same. The girls are getting into the questioning age (and starting to notice worms that aren't moving and broken birds' eggs), and I have to really think about how to reply -- but so far the gut response seems the best, as long as I keep it simple. Also, children of this age very readily understand the concept of receiving but not of taking away.

Jess said...

I don't agree with sheltering kids (age appropriately and without gory details they don't need of course) from life and death. We lost Travis' grandpa suddenly a while back and we told the kids plainly and then just answered their questions. Of course we're religious so we also did have the in-Heaven-with-Jesus-and-God lesson in there as well....which makes it less scary because the kids understood heaven/Jesus/God already to some extent. But Ethan still talks about dying and Great-Grandpa and all that. How you don't need your body anymore after you die, etc.

We got books for the kids about "their story" which touches on how babies are made, at least in Ethan's (Ava's is more....where she LITERALLY came from). For him and for Jenna it's not hard...a doctor put a little bit of mommy and a little bit of daddy in a dish and a baby grew, then they put it in mommy's tummy. That said, Ava is bound to be a tinge more complicated, though, you know, that will be a while before "a little bit of birthdad and birthmom" wouldn't do. And for now they don't even ask. Ava was adopted and Ethan and Jenna are "from a dish" and that's all they need. LOL

Now THERE is a benefit of infertility I didn't see coming! HAHA!

Not on Fire said...

At 3 he might be satisfied with "Children come from the love between a Mummy and a Daddy." It is short, simple and true.

Vee said...

I am just surprised that PB held onto those words and brought them up again. I only vaguely recall saying it. It's a reminder to me to be mindful of what I say around them especially at that age. Not that was anything wrong with what I said but it could have been different. I think you handled it really well.

Lut C. said...

Linnea made me read a children's story about an old cat the was sick and died over and over (a bit morbid, but I did as asked). Maybe because her grandmother's cat died, though she never mentioned that.

I think it becomes really tough when they come with the question if everyone dies - even you.

Even so, I can see the sense in replying truthfully, if in simple enough words.

Wanting to soften the blow, I can understand wanting to do that. Then again, I sometimes wonder if Linnea isn't living too sheltered a life. When she grows up, there will be pain and disappointment (if not sooner).

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