family tree

In the car today, I called Grammy and left a message on her voicemail before the following conversation began:

Piglet:  Who were you talking to?
Me:  I just called Grammy.
Piglet:  That’s your mommy.
Me:  That’s right, Grammy is my mommy.
Piglet:  And Pops is your daddy.
Me:  That’s right.
Piglet:  Pops is daddy’s daddy.
Me:  No, Pops is mommy’s daddy, who is daddy’s daddy?
Piglet:  Papa is daddy’s daddy.
Me:  That’s right.
Piglet:  Where  is daddy’s mommy?*
Me and Russ:  uh, duh, I, uh, duh (whispering, “how do we answer that question?”)
Piglet:  Mimi is daddy’s mommy?
Me and Russ:  (whispering “i guess that’s a good answer for now”) yes sweetheart.

A few things struck me about this conversation.  First, I was pretty impressed that she could identify the relationships that way rather than just how the family members were related to her alone.  Second, that with all of the other grandparents, she knew who belong to whom…but she actually hesitated with daddy’s mommy, like she knew, but didn’t quite.  And third that she asked not “who” was daddy’s mommy but “where”.

How do you explain death to a two year-old, especially the death of someone she’s never met?  She has seen pictures of Mary and we have told her that she was “grandma Mary” and even said that she was daddy’s mommy.  But she never asked questions about that before; she just kind of accepted it and would identify “grandma Mary” in other pictures.  I want to be honest with her, and I know that she is smart, but how do you really communicate that in two year-old language?

And then we have to explain how Mimi fits in.  oi vey.  I swear you need multiple Masters degrees for all of the curve balls in parenting.

*For those of you who may not know.  Russ’ mom passed away during his freshman year of college.

4 Responses

  1. piglet is almost the exact same age that sera was when she asked the exact same question about my mom. she said “where” too. she had also seen lots of pictures of my mom as well.

    i told her that my mom was up in heaven with Jesus. when she asked why i told her that she got very sick and that God wanted her to come home with Him and make her my angel. I told her that she is now her (sera’s ) angel too and watches over her. this answer totally satisfied her.

    she later asked about jerry (my dad’s wife now). i told her that my dad fell in love with her and married her. she asked if that meant she had 3 grandmothers and i said “yes! you are so special and blessed that you have THREE grandmothers! how awesome is that?!” she loved this answer too!

    it wasn’t much later that sera asked if everyone dies if they get “real sick” and then she asked “who will take care of me if you and dad get real sick and die” that was a hard conversation!! i just told her that not everyone dies when/if they get “real sick” and that she didn’t have to worry about that happening to her or us. don’t know if that was a good way to answer that question but she put me on the spot one day at lunch and that’s all i could come up with!!

    piglet is SOOO smart, she probably already “knows” where russ’s mom is, she just doesn’t have the words.

    i don’t think you can go wrong explaining it to her however feels comfortable for you.

    plus, piglet has the most special angel looking after her that any little girl can have 🙂

  2. You are the best judge of what kind of language she can understand and will communicate that to her perfectly, I have no doubt. Here’s how we do it, just as an FYI.

    We have told the boys (and will tell Molly) that they are super lucky to have three grandmothers – Nana, Mimi, and Grandma Mary. Nana lives in Columbia, Mimi lives in Irmo, and Grandma Mary lives in heaven with Jesus. When they ask why Grandma Mary is in heaven, we tell them that she was very, very sick and Jesus took her home to heaven to make her well again. We also tell them that we think she had a hand in “picking them out” especially for us. 🙂

    We get very few questions beyond that. They are good with the fact that they have three grandmothers. They even draw a picture of three for Grandparents Day. Nana has a cat, Mimi has a little dog, and Grandma Mary has wings (hee hee.)

  3. I just read Leigh Ann’s comments and yes – they have asked if everyone dies and goes to heaven when they get very sick. We tell them no, but sometimes people get too sick for the doctor to make them well, so they go to Jesus. And the reason they don’t come back after they’re better is because they’re helping Jesus get our places all ready for us when we go there. Heaven is cool!

    There are so many questions that they will have as they get older. We just take them as they come and are honest in a gentle way. We also try not to make a huge deal out of it. It IS hard, but the Lord will guide your words. Y’all are great parents! 🙂

  4. Toddler minds are amazing aren’t they?!? I think you should take on writing a book of “Theology for Toddlers… how to explain all the tough stuff about God, Jesus & Heaven to someone under 4 feet tall” I would buy it! (The other day the Goose asked me what tombstones were, followed the next day by why do we go to church & what else does God want us to do???? )
    ps… Mom’s mom died before she was married too but I still feel a close connection with her Mama & always loved to hear stories about her… made me feel more like I knew her. I like to think I just have something extra to look forward to in Heaven…. so do Piglet & Baby B 🙂

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