My son is 4 years old. That means we're really in to words now. We're into rhyming, sounding things out and even trying a bit of spelling now and then. And he wants to know what every single one means. Sometimes, it is surprisingly easy.
Walking with daddy a while back they passed someone with a rainbow patch on his jacket. "Why does he have a rainbow?" our son asked. "Well, because he's gay," said daddy. "What's gay?" Perhaps because he was honestly curious about what I would say and I'm the one who writes on and off for Xtra West, daddy told him to ask me when he saw me later that day.
"Well, you know how mommy and daddy are a couple, we're together, right? Well, if two men are a couple or if two women are a couple, they are 'gay'," I said. (I wasn't going to get into explaining the the entire LGBTQ alphabet soup just yet). "Oh, okay," said M and that was that. See, easy, right? I was feeling cocky.
Well, life knows how to keep cockiness in line. You may recall recently one of our cats, Bella, had to be euthanized. Friends volunteered to take our son out that morning. He knew the cat was very sick. I told him she was dying and that he needed to say goodbye before he left; that she wouldn't be there when he came back. I was crying, so maybe he didn't ask questions because of that.
The next morning he sprinted into our room, climbed on top of my husband and asked, "When's Bella coming back?" This time it was his turn and frankly, I was relieved that he got this one. "Buddy, she's dead. She's not coming back." The other day, my son said, "Bella's with Grandma Sue." He knows his Grandma Sue died before mommy and daddy got married, so daddy must have had to elaborate on his answer at some point.
Then last weekend, the vet dropped of the urn - yeah, we're those people - and before he got to our place, I panicked. "What if M asks what's inside?" I asked my husband. I'm not a fan of sugarcoating things. Give me rainbow flags over that damned Rainbow Bridge poem any day please, because we all know how I am about death. Love is easy for me. Death? Not so much.
Don't get me wrong: I don't set out to scare or scar my kid. But at the same time, I don't want him to be misinformed. I tell him as much as I think he needs to know in basic terms and sometimes (like last weekend) I also cross my fingers that he doesn't ask for more. How do you explain cremation to a 4-year-old? Yikes.
Luckily, we dodged the bullet on that one. He didn't ask. But I'm sure one day he will notice the two urns, one Bella's, the other Bob's (another feline) on the shelf. Hopefully I'll be equipped to answer that one without giving my kid nightmares.