Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Finding the Words

Last night, MDB was playing quietly on his floor, right before bed.  He stopped for a moment, looked up at me and said:

MDB:  "Mom, who is your Mom?"
Me:  "Nana"
MDB:  "Well, who is your Dad?"
Me:  "Pop-Pop"
MDB:  "Who is Nana's Mom?"
Me:  "Gre."
MDB:  "Mommy, how come we have never met Pop-Pop's mom?"

I'm fairly certain the wind was knocked out of me for just a moment, as I peered into my boy's baby blues, trying to catch my breath and think of what to say, the perfect thing to say, in that moment. 

You know the scene in the movies, where a million pictures flash before someone's eyes?  That's what happened to me as I contemplated the right interfaith answer, debated lying, dealt with the sudden grief that hit me out of the blue and agonized over some of the pure innocence leaving my sweet, sweet child.

More than life itself I wish my Nan were here to meet my kids.  She would have just adored them.  I miss her, still, after all these years. 

I am that Mom.  The one that desperately tries to shelter her kids from anything bad, longing for them to be innocent and naive as long as humanly possible.  I knew, as the words came out of my mouth countless times, that it was wrong to tell him that squished bugs were sleeping, but death just seemed too scary and real for a child.  Honestly, I would rather talk about sex.

But, questions about death have been on his mind lately.  And, I'm struggling with finding answers.  I actually googled "explaining death to children in Judaism", "explaining death to children in Christianity" and "explaining death to children without landing them in therapy."  I covered all my basis and still don't really know what to say.

So, I told him that when you die you get to be with G-d in heaven and that Pop's mom was in heaven.  I have an tendency to over-explain, and I don't want to scare him, so I left it at that and asked him if he wanted to talk about it more or had questions.  He didn't and moved on to play with his cars.

When I was young, it helped me to think that my Nan was up in the clouds, playing cards with Frank Sinatra or endless rounds of golf - happy and carefree -- always watching over me. 

Man, I wish there were a manual to help with this critical stuff. Through the early years, I read countless books/articles to find the perfect swaddle technique, what to feed and when and more -- but things that help shape their beliefs for years to come -- I feel helpless and speechless (which, if you know me, doesn't happen often).

And, bam, just like that, all those time the hubs and I said, "don't worry, we don't need to face the raising kids with our separate religions issue yet" just reared its head.  And, I really, really want to get this right. 

Any tips out there from people in a similar situation?


  1. In the past several years I've buried both in-laws and my father so death will be a subject in our house. I figure when my son is old enough to ask I'll be honest an tell him, they were really sick and now they are in heaven. Then answer the questions as they come.

    Maybe take him to the cemetery. :)

  2. Hey Jen!!

    Kids ask questions which adults only think about! Their honesty gives meaning to simplicity. Their love keeps us in touch with our humility.

    My answers are just thoughts from an aging woman, mother to your 27 1/2 year old cousin, girlfriend/sister to several dear women, and wife to my man of almost 35 years.

    I agree that the answers should be short, the research is endless, and the worries become bigger.

    Along time ago, I heard a woman psychologist speak at SAM's elementary school ~ she said that we need to give our kids high fences and big back yards.

    She implied that it's important to continually give our children bigger yards as they grow, and that the fences need to always get higher.

    My interpretation was ~ the fences are the rules which we expect our children to follow, and the yard is their life where we nuture them to grow.

    So, with all that said, a hug from Austin, Texas. It sounds like your being a really good Mom.