Why do we say children are resilient? It’s so easy to say that, but we, as adults, don’t treat them like they are. Maybe it’s something we say, to make ourselves feel better about life’s messiness? “Oh, don’t worry about letting it slip that Santa isn’t real. Children are resilient”. “Rolled off the changing table (again)? Luckily these children are resilient.” We buy them a fish to teach them about the cycle of life (and to squash debates over getting an animal that will inevitably poop on the carpet). The minute said fish is practicing the backstroke, and before anyone else notices, we’re first in line at Petco looking for a fish twin. Maybe we think it’s just easier than having to call out that naming their fish, Michael Phelps, was a bit of a stretch. Have you ever decided to embrace your child’s resilience and step outside of your comfort zone?
Our beloved family dog, Lucy, passed away this year, of complications from old age. It didn’t take long for the kids to notice that Lucy wasn’t around. I’m sure the lack of “landmines” in the backyard was also a good indicator that something was up. Our first instinct, when my daughter asked where Lucy was, was to tell her that Lucy went to Heaven. After I said it, I could feel myself contorting to give myself a pat on the back. Yup, wrapped this one up with a pretty bow.
And then it started to happen – the bow began to fray. My daughter chimed in with lots of questions. The first one being, “Heaven?”. A one word question that has been debated since potentially the beginning of mankind. Sure, I’ll be able to wrap this one up before nap time, no problem.
Before assembling a PowerPoint presentation on religious freedoms, I decided to take a different approach. Maybe I should just be more matter-of-fact. After all, children are supposed to be resilient. Maybe I wasn’t being forthcoming enough. So out it came. “Lucy died.”
You know what my daughter’s response was? “Died?”
Was this the part where you were hoping I’d explain that being to-the-point, squashed further questioning, once again, tying a pretty bow around the whole situation? I wish. It did help me realize something though.
Kids are plenty resilient. Adults, could use some work.
Shortly after this “conversation”, my kids went back to drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, and I stewed about how I’d quite possibly ruined any potential my kids have for a strong foundation in understanding the circle of life. I probably should have just forced them to eat some goldfish (the cracker, not Michael Phelps) and watch the Lion King.
My kids still don’t understand death, but they’ve shown me their resilience, by bouncing back from our confusing first exchange. Which means:
- You’ll have plenty of opportunities to explain things. Try and try again (and again).
- Quit giving yourself a hard time for not having all of the answers – more than likely, they didn’t notice.
- No one said you need to have all of the answers.
- Stewing about it only proves my point.
You’re not always going to be able to find the fish twin, and inevitably life will make you feel like someone has fallen off of the changing table (again). More than likely that someone will be you. We’re so concerned about our children, but never stop embracing your resilience in the face of life’s messiness.