So, in trying to explain to Benjamin about St. Patrick’s Day, I may have accidentally traumatized and/or warped him permanently. It went like this:
B: What is St. Patrick’s Day?
me: Well, it’s a day where we celebrate everything Irish, which means everything from Ireland, which is a country, like Austria. Your great-grandmother was from Ireland.
B: Silly Mommy! I don’t have a great-grandmother!
me: (Hmm.) Well, no, that’s true, you don’t now, but she was my grandma and she was your grandma’s mom.
B: Where is she?
me: (Oops) Well, honey, she died a few years ago.
B: What’s “died”?
Egads. I was just trying to give some personal perspective on a day that pretty much just meant to him that I’d forced him to wear green, and we ended up on death and dying. It got worse from there. I didn’t mean to try to explain to my 3 year old about death — I hadn’t mentally prepared for that conversation — but he pays attention to everything and he asks all the right questions: “Does everyone die? Will we die one day? What happens when you die?” I want to be honest, but I don’t also want to be age-appropriate and I don’t want to scare him or worry him or make him sad. I don’t really have any idea of how to do that. And, of course, he’s got a nearly photographic memory, so he’s going to remember everything I say, think about it, and compare everything I say in the future with what I’m saying now. I really want to do this right, because the alternative is to either traumatize or profoundly confuse him (maybe both) and I really don’t want him to end up in therapy already. (There are many years ahead for that, I’m sure.)
Last night, before bed, he told me that he doesn’t want to do anything that will make me sad or make me die. I assured him that there’s nothing he could do that would make me die, and that being sad and dying aren’t the same.
I really hope I’m not traumatizing him to the point of being afraid to leave the house and/or warping his little mind. So far, he still seems pretty normal: going to school, eating ice cream, telling his favorite joke (“What happens when the Sun is sick? It doesn’t feel so HOT! Get it?!?”), chasing Liam around the house. But who knows what damage I’ve caused to him already. And there are TONS of these kinds of complicated, minefield-riddled conversations to be had over the coming years. Who decided I was qualified to be a parent, anyway?