Last summer, I took the girls for walks in our neighborhood frequently, and one of their favorite places to go was to “Sam and Molly’s house.” Sam and Molly were little kittens. Sam, a fluffy black and white kitty, was the more friendly of the two. Molly, solid black, was more aloof.
Since the weather has warmed up, we’ve gone by Sam and Molly’s house a few times, but we’ve only seen Sam outside. Today, our neighbor came outside, so I asked if they still had Molly. No, she was hit by a car.
Helen asked (as usual) where Molly was. So I told her. This has been an interesting discussion for the past 30 minutes, as Helen works through it. She’s been alternately tearful and hopeful as she asks me, “Where did Molly go?” and “Is Molly coming back?” And then accusing: “Did Mommy run over Molly? Daddy? Nannie?” I explained that there are lots of drivers on the road, and that I didn’t know who it was. But it wasn’t me, or Daddy, or Nannie, or anyone that she knew. Then hopeful again: “Will a bandaid fix it?”
It’s difficult to explain death to a not-yet-four-year-old, but I didn’t want to gloss over it or lie to her. I want my child to be worldly and filled with hope at the same time. We have six pets — one of them will eventually get sick and leave us. And then I can explain that our animal(s) are playing with Molly now.
Several days of discussion will follow, I’m sure, as she remembers this and wants to talk about it or cry about it.
But now she wants to watch “Dumbo.”