Today my five year old daughter learned about cremation. I didn’t plan this conversation nor did I want to have it.
My husband likes to joke and say if I was a Disney character I’d be The Queen Of Uncomfortable Conversations. He may be right…
I don’t mean to love it, I really don’t. But there is something so invigorating about breaking down boundaries through words that really lights my fire.
When my children were born, one promise I made to myself was to tell them the truth, regardless of anything. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I made the decision before they even came out to not lie to them, ever, ever, ever.
I recognize the power of karmic energy and it’s clear to me that if I want honest conversations to take place between us in her teen years, I have no choice but to set that foundation for honest, open communication now when she’s learning the basics.
So, today got real, real quick. She said something silly about the paint she was using as it dropped and dragged across the table. “Ma isn’t it adorable, just like Carter’s snot used to do.” Then immediately, without hesitation, as if she’d been waiting for the moment to build up the courage to ask, she looked at me and asked me what the doctors did with Carter’s body. I told her they kept it.
She said, “Yeah you told me that yesterday mom, but I’m asking you, what did they do with it?” Knowing they cremated it, and understanding that’s a pretty serious topic for a five year old, I tried to avoid answering in totality.
“Sweetheart, the process is complicated, I’ll explain it to you one day when I understand it better too.”
(I’m not lying, I really don’t know much about what they do or how it’s done…right? Yes, no? I’m straddling the line of truth already…)
Knowing my game face she said, “I know you just don’t want to tell me mom, but that makes me frustrated because I really wanna know. Plus I don’t think it’s very fair to keep secrets. He’s my dog too.”
Clearly she knew how to get me to talk. I told her the truth, they cremated him. What does that mean? They put him in a big oven and burnt him in a fire and he turned to ashes. (How terrible to hear out loud.) I told her not to worry because his body is no longer a part of him and that it won’t hurt. She didn’t care. She said that she did not like the idea of it, “not even a little” and she wishes we could have dug a huge hole at Middlebush Park, under his favorite tree, and buried him next to her Goldfish, Sadie.
I secretly wish we could have to. It was then I realized I never weighed out our options. I dreaded the day so much, when it actually came I just panicked and went into zombie mode and did what everyone else does and called the vet.
Now I’m wishing I had this conversation with Maddie prior to his death. I think we would have come to the best conclusion together and really weighed out our options as she reminded me, “He didn’t love being near the fireplace but he did love being outside with bugs. So naturally it wouldn’t bother him to be buried with them in the dirt. Me, I’d never want to be buried because I don’t really like being with bugs…”
Just another example of us, as parents, underestimating our children’s ability to process and understand the truth. We assume we know best and want to shield them from sad actualities.
I need to stop that, she’s stronger than I realize. By denying her answers, I’m denying her pieces of her path to self awareness. She deserves the truth always, regardless how tough it may be for me to say it to her adorable little face.
Thanks for the talk lil guru. I appreciate you and all of your life lessons. You will continue to do great things, you make me proud, every damn day. Even when you wear your pants inside out and pretend to pick your nose when I take your picture.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Jennifer Martin
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Courtesy of author