Originally posted July 13, 2010, at I am Totally That Mom. Republished with permission.
Yesterday, I had one of those tough conversations with my three-year-old son, B. We had been at the lake that day, and some kids he was playing with found a dead fish which they thought was great fun. Um, yea, ew.
I told him not to touch it (only after I saw him carrying it around — yes, I repeat, ew), and that was it. Apparently, one of the other children’s moms had them bury the fish, and I guess in doing so made some comment about it going to heaven.
I didn’t find this part out until bedtime. My husband had a council meeting, so I was reading to both kids before bed.
B stopped my reading to ask about the fish that they buried so it could go up high. I was pretty confused but eventually figured out what had happened.
What followed was a conversation about heaven, God, Jesus, death, resurrection and life … with my three-year-old.
If you read my other blog that is dedicated to my kids and keeping friends and family up-to-date on their adventures, you might remember me talking about the death of my grandfather and how we try to be honest with the kids while keeping things simple and age-appropriate.
That’s our approach: honesty with attention and care given to the spiritual and emotional maturity of the child.
We are attempting to wrap our children in love and support so that they can comfortably ask questions and test the waters. And, oh, my goodness, it is hard.
So B and I talked, while little brother, E, threw a tantrum that shook the sides of the house because he was clearly too tired for philosophical and theological conversation at that point.
But B and I talked nonetheless. I tried to be honest. I can’t remember the exact words or the exact questions and answers, and I honestly don’t want to because in doing so I would see all the things I said wrong. But at the time, I was doing the best I could.
B asked at one point with these questioning, pleading eyes, “But, Mama, we won’t ever die, right?” Wow.
Talk about getting the wind knocked out of me. I couldn’t, can’t and won’t lie to him. I told him that we would. Gasp. I know. It [was awful]. I tripped over language that was insufficient for the task at hand.
I struggled with the desire to stop it all and just say, “Of course not, honey, of course we won’t die,”or to promise him, swear to him with every ounce of my being, give him a money-back guarantee that neither he nor his parents would die for many, many years.
In the end, we went back to reading our book. We finished, and I said it was time for bed.
He solemnly put the book down, and slowly and quietly walked to the door. I asked, “B, are you ok?” and when he turned, I saw a quivering lip and eyes filled with fear and uncertainty.
The tears began to gush, and he cried, “I waaaant daadaaaa.” I grabbed him and hugged him. He cried for daddy, but I knew he was just crying for something, someone to make it all feel better. He held me so tight.
There we sat on the floor, him on my lap, clinging to each other, rocking, and I prayed to God, begging for wisdom and guidance.
I prayed for God to rain down on B with comfort and security, for God’s arms to wrap up B the way I was trying and hold him so tight that B would feel that everything was going to be okay.
It is at times like last night that I am brought to my knees, humbled by the call to motherhood, terrified of the task ahead of me, and completely uncertain of my ability to raise this child up, with honesty and integrity, while protecting his sweet, sensitive spirit.
It is at times like last night that I want to protect him from every truth there is. I want to tell him that the world is made up of sunshine and rainbows.
Instead, I painstakingly try to provide the most secure and safe place for him to grow, explore, question and wonder.
Breast-feeding problems? Natural childbirth? Colic? Oh man, those were easy. Can I have those days back?
Find a link to Jamie Bruesehoff’s blog I am Totally That Mom at Lutheran Blogs.