A few days ago I read one of W’s favorite winter books, The Snowy Day. Snow was predicted in the Philadelphia area and W was excited. For those of you not familiar with the book it is about a little boy named Peter who takes himself for a walk through his neighborhood after it has snowed.
On one of the pages it talks about how Peter makes tracks with his feet and then he finds a stick and makes different looking tracks. On these two pages of the book you do not see Peter, just his tracks.
Out of the blue, when we read the book Friday night, W exclaimed, “oh poor Peter. He died. He’s not here any more.”
I turned the page and said, “oh! see? There is Peter.”
The next time we read the book when we got to those pages with the tracks W, once again, proclaimed, “Peter is died.” I asked him what that meant and he said “died is with Millie and Pop”.
Now obviously those are the names of my Grandparents and we do have family photos of them in the house and we have explained that they are both no longer with us.
This morning W noticed a balloon that he got over the weekend had started drooping. He made the sounds of crying (not actually crying) and moaned, “my balloon is dead.”
To be honest I don’t think I handled the moment well at all. I think I said something like, “oh it’s fine.” But then I went to Mom’s room and asked if he had made any of these remarks to her or if they had talked about this subject recently. To her knowledge it was out of the blue.
With toddler logic there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as “out of the blue”. Seeds are planted and they can grow into conversations months later. I wonder what W over heard and when. And I only really wonder so that I know if he is searching for comfort or just having an understandable curiosity.
On a personal level I fear talking about death with W because I don’t want to fuck it up. I’m going to make a stop by the library tomorrow and see if there are any age appropriate books that might help.
How have you guys navigated conversations about death?