Difficult Conversations With My Child – Part 2

Forget the babbling brook, I’m a rambling river. I’m not sure why I feel compelled to tell people everything. Maybe it’s the need to vent, to seek feedback, validation, advice, a laugh. Who knows? But if loose lips sink ships, I should really have my own personal Coast Guard.
 
I may over-share on a regular basis within my social network (and the occasional innocent bystander at the grocery check-out) but I am able to curtail my TMI tendencies when it comes to my kids.
 
Children hang on our every word. WHAT we say and HOW we say it—it’s our job to try to insulate our kids from worry, horror, despair, and unthinkable sadness.
 
We can’t completely shelter our children from the harsh realities of life. But if possible we can try to shield them from the really scary sh*t so they can feel safe and secure for as long as possible. 
 
This is why I chose initially not to tell my son that Zack passed away.
 
The boys never met in person, but my son knew about Zack and his family. He knew Zack was Avery’s friend. He heard me speak about Zack’s parents. He knew we planned to meet the Hamilton boys in person over the March Break. He was disappointed when I told him it wasn’t going happen because Zack was in hospital. He read Heather’s blog with me and looked at pictures. He asked if Zack was going to die. I told him I didn’t think so and that he was at a great hospital where the doctors were taking good care of. I believed that.
 
When Zack died, I was shocked and crushed, like so many others who were rooting for this sweet boy from afar.
 
When my son asked how Zack was doing, I didn’t lie. But I didn’t tell him the truth. I told him Zack was with his family.
 
We’ve talked about death; a great-grandparent, a beloved pet, a distant relative. My child has seen grief and felt the sadness. But he’s seven. And he worries. I knew if I told him, he’d worry the same thing could happen to his sister. I wanted to protect him from that.
 
I also wanted to help this amazing family. I decided to organize a fundraiser to support Zack’s Dream Room. I asked my son if he’d like to co-host the Elmo Party with me. He shouted, “Yes! I’d love to be the co-host!!” and then asked, “What is a co-host?”  I told him it’s the most important role at the party. His job is to play with Ty and Jayden and to make sure they have a good time.
 
And, this is when I had to tell him the truth.
 
Obviously, he couldn’t hear the news at the party.
 
My husband and I talked to him over dinner. I told him how Zack adored Elmo, so that’s why the party is an Elmo theme. We reminded him about the playroom where he played video games and watched movies when he visited Avery when she was in hospital. We told him Zack’s family was making a special room like that, to remember Zack, because he died.
 
I didn’t expect his explosive reaction. “HE DIED???!! What do you mean, he died!?” He was horrified and thoroughly confused. Children aren’t supposed to die.
 
We talked about how Zack was sick. I told him his mommy and daddy were there with him and he wasn’t afraid and Zack’s ok now. He’s not in any pain.
 
And then he asked what I knew he would. Is this going to happen to Avery? Can it happen to him? Assurances were made and fears were calmed. His fears.
 
He asked if Zack’s parents were sad. I told him yes, very much.
 
He asked if people would cry at the party. I told him probably. People cry when they love somebody and they miss them. 
 
His next concern was about his co-hosting duties—specifically, did I think Ty and Jayden would want to do the slides with him and do they like pizza?
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