We've had some kind of heavy conversations and play around here lately. It started when we had to put Simon to sleep; I explained in very general terms to the kids what was going to happen. Pacey accepted it and moved on, but Brighton has had more questions as time goes by. She thought, for instance, that he went to sleep and woke up as someone else's dog (well, I mean, who knows right?) and was really sad that he isn't OUR dog anymore. She has shown surprising compassion for Huff, giving him far more love and attention than ever before. Today she told me he looked worried, and said he was wondering where Simon was. I guess I didn't anticipate how much of this she'd be working over in her mind over time.
Then the kids started watching a Land Before Time movie (the second, I think, there seem to be about 10 of them) and there is a story line about some of the parent dinosaurs dying. Since then, dying has featured as a theme in various ways through our day. The other night Brighton was laying down in the bathtub with her eyes shut and I asked if she was tired. "No, Mom," she said, "I'm just pretending I'm dying." I won't lie, that was pretty unnerving. She lays her dinosaurs down and says they are dead or dying and believes that pouring water over them will save them. Today at a playdate she presented me with a stuffed horse and informed me in a sad voice that he had died. The other mom looked a little unnerved too. I haven't really given much of a response to these things, and she doesn't particularly seem to be looking for one.
I'm surprised at how squeamish I feel on the topic. I've tried to answer her questions (which have been relatively few, thankfully) honestly and only give her the information she's really after. She doesn't seem upset by any of it, and I don't actually think she really grasps what death means yet. We've been so incredibly fortunate that our friends and family have stayed healthy and safe and we have not yet had to discuss the concept of people dying, but I don't think it's far away. More than the subject of death, I'm REALLY uncomfortable with discussing violence and killing. I posted on Facebook awhile back that Brighton was asking very detailed questions about the gun that came with a Playmobil pirate and what it is used for. I wrote that I'd significantly prefer questions about "how babies get in mommies' tummies" to questions that lead to the loss of a little bit of their innocence. Already Brighton will make a toy aggressively advance towards another and threaten to "die them." I can only assume this comes from the episode of Babar involving the hunter killing his mother I inadvertently let them watch (oops). I don't know where else she would even have the concept of violence from.
It's really fascinating to watch how kids process things. I can see how Brighton is working out her place in the world, and it's fun to see her perspective widening a little. When she wants to grow up, she tells me, she'd like to be a unicorn with a rainbow mane that goes to Mars. And she'd also like to be a mommy. There's plenty of light here to balance out the heavy but once again I am struck by the enormity of the task of raising this little person.
Pacey, on the other hand, seems almost to be becoming more self-aware these days (heh, not something my girl child has ever been lacking in). He's always been a really compassionate kid, quick to comfort others and really never goes out of his way to be intentionally mean. And while he will stand up for himself, it doesn't seem like he's the type of person to put himself first. He is getting better and better at advocating for himself though, and with his increased language I'm starting to understand him a little more (as in, understand what makes him tick, as well as purely comprehending what he's saying). The other night we were getting his pajamas on and he asked me about the scars he has on his belly. There's a line across his right side where he had his initial abdominal surgery as well as a puckered little starburst of a scar where his g-tube was placed. He's never asked about them before, but I explained that they were scars from when he was a baby and doctors helped make him well. I don't know how much of it he absorbed, but I love that he's developing an interest in himself.
Thinking about his scars definitely led me down a path of remembering his first year and what a genuine miracle it is that he is thriving in the way he is today. I look at this enthusiastic, cheerful, energetic, funny kid and I sort of can't believe he is the same baby that was born so small and faced so many challenges and discomforts. I am so very very grateful that I get to know him at all, and even more so that he is becoming more able to share his world with us.