I am so clueless when it comes to parenting. Sure, I can play trucks and chase Rowan around the yard. I can read to him, build towers, cook his meals and do his laundry, but I totally fall short with the real stuff.
Rowan’s first pet died today. His red beta, named Blub-Blub has been swimming sideways for about two days, and I’ve known he was close to death. I kept telling myself I’d think of a way to explain it to Rowan, but stuff kept coming up, and it kept slipping my mind. Then it actually happened, and I was left with absolutely nothing.
While Rowan was in the kitchen having tea with Great (a daily ritual), I fished out Blub-Blub, and hid him in a Tupperware. I sat Rowan down on his bed, and asked him if he remembered where Mommy’s Bapa is.
“In heaven with God.”
“Right, and do you know why he went to heaven?”
“Let’s go outside.”
“Actually, I need to tell you something.”
“Blub-Blub died, Sweetie. He went up to heaven.”
Wordlessly he dragged a chair over to the empty fish tank and peered in. He studied the water for a few moments, looked at me with those huge blue eyes, and started to cry. Big heaping sobs of grief and anger filled his tiny body. He fell into my arms and I cried with him. I wasn’t crying for the fish, but rather the inconsolable pain that my baby was feeling. He was hurting, and nothing I could do could fix that. I knew he needed to feel that pain and work through his grief. I felt so, so helpless. So inadequate. I would have done anything to take away his hurt.
As soon as he was able to catch his breath and talk, he just repeated over and over, “He not dead, he not dead.” I assured him he was, and finally he just settled into my lap, and we quietly sat together for a while.
I took him out to dinner, just the two of us. It’s not something we ever really do, so he cheered up a little and started chatting about the dog outside. Eventually over grilled cheese and french fries the conversation turned to death and heaven, grieving and God. Guys, I have an amazing son with a huge heart with a great capacity to love. He’s got an ability to grasp the intangible that I still struggle with. His innocent, trusting soul can accept without question that his beloved pet is in heaven with Mommy’s Bapa.
This was a hard first lesson on loss for my little man. He no longer has the advantage of ignorance any more. He knows things die and go away. He knows life will hurt him, and that mommy can’t protect him from everything. As much as this day has been hard, it’s also been a growing and learning experience. My little boy is one step closer to being a man, and I can’t help but plead for him to stop. Slow down.