The other day Quinn was playing with a toy dog and informed us his dog’s name was Sam. Ross told Quinn that he had a dog named Sam when he was a little boy. This lead to a conversation similar to this:
Quinn: “Where is your dog now?”
Ross: “Well I don’t have him anymore. That was a long time ago.”
Quinn: “Where is he? Is he dead?”
Ross: “Yes, he is dead.”
Quinn: “Is Babygirl (our cat & don’t judge…that is her adopted name) going to die?”
Ross: “Yes, Babygirl is going to die.”
And then Quinn burst into tears and started crying hysterically. I am talking hyperventilating crying. And my heart broke. Through his sobs he would manage to eek out questions like: Is Eleanor going to die? Am I going to die? When are we going to die?
Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell your sweet four-year-old that yes, he is going to die? To watch his perfect little world crumble around him? To have not a single explanation that really makes any sense. Any guesses what I did? Yup, I sobbed right along with him. I cradled my little boy and cried and tried to tell him that it was okay.
Quinn just turned four and typically talks about death in a very nonchalant way. He will fall over and say he died in his imaginary game, things like that. He never seemed to grasp the meaning of it, so I was very shocked by his reaction.
I calmed Quinn down by telling him that we don’t want to waste our time worrying about dying. That we have a long life and we will fill it with so many good memories. Even this made me cringe, because truth be told, I don’t KNOW this. I tried to appeal to his ability to have control of the situation. I told him we make good choices like buckling our seat belt, and eating healthy, and wearing our helmet, and looking both ways before we cross the street so that we can make sure we stay safe. And it worked. He did calm down. He actually seemed to get over it pretty quickly.
Since this incident last week he has said things like, “Where is cat? Did she die?”. It seems to still be very much on his mind. To some degree I want him to understand death. I want him to understand the consequences of getting hit by a car, drowning, choking, etc. I want him to know how important it is to keep himself safe. Once when I was explaining to him the severity of wrapping something around his neck he replied with, “Well then you can get a new Quinn.” I made it very clear that there is no getting a new Quinn. That he was special and there was just one of him and I could never make a new one. When we saw someone with a missing limb he thought they could just grow a new one. I explained to him that you only get one body and you have to take care of it.
It is such a fine line. Protecting your child and being honest. Preparing your child for the real world and keeping their innocence.
P.S. Then, while searching for something on the computer, I found this. This hormonal pregnant woman, who just broke it to her four-year-old he was going to die, lost it. Time really does pass far too quickly. A reminder to count all your blessing and love deeply.
Quinn’s First Year