Awkward conversations with your kid

Or, trying to figure out how to ask your kids questions without leading them on.

 

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We went to a fall festival last Thursday.  I always laugh at these things because it’s really a Halloween carnival, but because they don’t want to offend anyone we’ve renamed it fall festival.  But, my kids got stickers and candy there, and immediately upon getting home they set to work using up every single thing they got there.

 

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They happily sat there and drew and put stickers on for a good long time, and were explaining to me all about what their pictures were.

 

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Superman proudly explained to me that his picture was a party for a bunch of kids who had died, and the people were having fun there.

 

Ummmm, what?  So, I tried carefully asking about this without sounding like a slightly freaked out Mom and without leading his answers.  Because it is so easy to do that.

 

 

After much explaining and questioning he explained it was a party like we did for Uncle Sam where we watched Star Wars and talked about how much we liked Uncle Sam.  And it’s like the party we had for Mr. Pat and talked about all the things we like about him.

 

Okay, I’m understanding this better.  So, I know many Christians aren’t all that fond of Halloween because of it’s ties to ghosts and scary things, and what not.  But, for me in this house, it’s brought up many conversations that we needed to have.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch, a phrase which here means while the boys were busy drawing they’re pictures; Princess was drawing her own set of pictures.

 

She took her mini notebook pad she’d gotten, which was all of 2 inches square, and drew a little picture on each page, and took it out and put it in her current “special box to carry things around in.”

 

Then she came and sat down next to me and said, “Mommy, these are pictures for people who are feeling sad about Uncle Sam and Mr. Pat.  Are you feeling sad about them?”

 

“Yes Wendy I am,” I answered.  Then she reached in her box and pulled out a picture and handed it to me.

 

“This is about Uncle Sam, he liked Star Wars,”  and she reached in and pulled out another picture.  “This is about Mr. Pat, Mimi and Noco are sad because he died.  Do you think they would like this picture?”

 

These conversations are so precious to me, they’re also very hard for me.  Sometimes after or during them I just want to go somewhere and cry for a very long time.  But, I know this is how they’re working through it all.  They need to talk it through, and so that’s what we’re doing.

 

Slowly, but surely we’re talking through it all.

Dealing with grief

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As most of you know who have been following my blog for the last few weeks, I have a good friend who just died.  He’s the sort of person who was more family than friend, he’s just been a part of my life that long.  And, for anyone who might be dealing with grief or wants recommendations on what to say to your kids in this time, here’s what’s been helping me.
Get a copy of the book Tear Soup, it’s a book on dealing with loss.  I like it because you can read it to your kids to explain why you’re crying so much, but it is more intended for adults.  Back when my Dad died I read this book more times than I can count because there were a lot of hurt feelings between me and my Dad’s family.  Most of it was over disagreements over silly details and I’m sure everyone meant well, but it ended with me feeling rather like a wet rag.
This book does a good job of talking about how grief is not just crying.  It’s also laughing at the crazy things you used to do together.  How the two of you would sit there and croon cheese at each other and discuss the relative merits of different types of cheese.
And sometimes you need to take a break from grieving, that doesn’t mean you are amazingly better, but you need a distraction, so you go to a Chuck E Cheese party with your kids.
On the subject  of kids, they’re understanding will completely depend on their age.  My oldest are about to turn five, and we’ve talked about death before when they asked about my Dad.  They’re dealing with it in their own way.  Some of it is in needing extra cuddles, some of it is in acting out more to get more attention.  And some of it is in the awkward manner of asking lots of questions I don’t have answers for.  They’re also incorporating death into their creative play.  Now, when they play house or the like Jeff and I are dead.  It’s somewhat disturbing because Jeff went to heaven, but I’m a ghost, but that’s them working it through.
For me the main thing to understand is this takes time.  You can’t microwave Tear Soup, it needs to be made in a slow-cooker for several weeks, and sometimes even for months.  You have to do it on your own terms, everyone has their own way of dealing with death or a loss.  When I had a miscarriage before the boys were born I was desperate to never be left alone for the first few weeks, but I didn’t want to talk about the miscarriage.  I just wanted someone with me.
With this, I don’t know.  It’s a little like having a scab, and you poke it every now and then to see if it still hurts.  I can mostly deal and carry on as long as I’m not thinking too much about it.  But, there’s still things that I break down at.  I sat and bawled through small group last week, but was relatively controlled at the memorial service until someone asked how I was holding up.
I know this was a rambling post that may or may not help anyone, but I wanted to share it in case it would help someone.
Oh, and for a book aimed specifically at kids get Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs by Tomie DePoala.  It’s a children’s book about death.  I actually have a whole list of books to help kids with this subject from when I was teaching, but it’s in my copy of Tear Soup, which I’ve loaned out to a friend, and that’s the only one I can think of offhand.
Well, if you’d like more great tips head over to We are THAT family for Works for Me Wednesday.

Preschool Corner: Questions

Oh my goodness the questions this week:

Mommy where is your Dad?
Mommy who killed your Daddy?
Mommy what is bad roses?
Mommy what is bad drink?
Mommy where is heaven?
Mommy is Jesus making your Daddy better?
Mommy what are we doing next?
Mommy what are we doing after that?
Mommy, why does this taste good?
Mommy what makes the ice cream taste good?
Mommy who is Aunt Tara’s mommy?
Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy……..

I think I’m going crazy with questions. HOwever they lead to good discussions, so that is a good thing.

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So, on to these innumerable questions. This first came up when I was trying to help them draw relationships between people. I was explaining that Mimi is my Mom (Mimi is the one on the right in the picture). This of course led to the discussion of who is my Dad.

So, I explained to them that my Dad died before they were born (actually a month before I got married). This led to the question of who killed my Daddy. They are thinking of the video games where people die because someone is killed, but it’s okay because they all come back to life. So, we talked about how no one killed him, he died of cirrhoisis.

Of course that led to what is “bad roses?” I explained how it was a really bad owie in your tummy. Then of course they had to tell me how they had “bad roses,” because they had owies in their tummies. I then explained that they don’t have “bad roses,” because you have to drink lots of bad drink to get it (which will soon lead into a sticky problem if they ask too much about what bad drink is because Jeff does drink the occasional beer, but that’s a problem for another day).

Then they started asking about heaven, because I said he was in heaven with Jesus because he told Jesus he wanted to be friends with him. Since they had just heard the story of how Jesus had healed someone, they of course made the connection that Jesus was going to heal my Daddy and bring him back.

This has had good sides and bad sides to it. On the one hand, we’ve had lots of great conversations about how to be a Christian and heaven and what God can do. On the other hand these are really heavy topics for a 4 year old. I don’t think they always understand it. Actually I know they don’t.

I’m always trying to look for ways to incorporate the Bible into what we talk about, because it is central to what I believe and I want them to realize it is important too.

So, it’s been an interesting week. I will say that car rides are a great place to have conversations with your kids. We’ve been having all sorts of interesting questions come up there. Of course that’s also where I’m forced to sing endless variations of “10 Little Indians,” so there’s downsides too.

Go visit Homeschool Creations for more great preschool ideas.