Spring has arrived, and with it, a chance for our son to run around outside to his heart’s content (sometimes even longer). Running, singing, dancing, playing, and possibly the most interesting, exploring the world around him.
It was in my mom’s backyard the other day when my casual sitting and absorbing of sunshine and fresh air was brought to a halt by his urgent need to take me with him elsewhere in the yard. “Me show you something.”
He laid himself down on the cement step outside the back door, saying “Helloooo, ladybug! Dada, there a ladybug down here.”
He loves ladybugs, and I love his constant need to protect them when he finds them. We were even at a playground recently where he thought some holes in red plastic on a slide/tube were ladybugs and didn’t want to go down for fear of hurting them. When I showed him they weren’t ladybugs at all, he felt incredibly relieved and continued on his merry play.
I looked over and there it was. On the ground, next to that cement step, aside from pieces of broken stone and some dirt, was a slightly faded ladybug, still and silent.
Then, he said, “It not real anymore.”
Huh, I thought. What an interesting observation. He was incredibly correct. I knew exactly what he was telling me. The ladybug had long since passed, but it sent me into a swirl of thoughts about how his little mind, a few months shy of three, processes such things.
“It not real anymore.”
The earliest recollection I have of even thinking about death came from the episode of Sesame Street when Mr. Hooper died. And honestly, it still sticks with me to this day. I still get a little sad during Mr Hooper’s scenes as we watch Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.
My first real dealings with death, personally, came in the third grade, when one night I received a phone call to our house (long before cell phones, kids!) from a classmate, who was crying, and told me that a girl in our class had died in a car accident while on a family vacation. A lot of the evening is an emotional blur of a memory, but I remember it having a big impact. I had been very lucky up that age of 8 or 9 or whatever age I was in third grade, in that I didn’t have to deal with death up to that point. So, when it hit that first time, it hit like a rock. I remember being quite a mess, and not being able to really comprehend it all. My grandfather, who lived across the street at the time, came over and talked me through it. I don’t remember what he said, exactly, but I remember some of it was a, sort of, reality-based “they’re gone. they’re not coming back and you’ve got to accept that, deal with it, and do the best you can.” I’m probably not giving him enough credit. It wasn’t a bad talk, it was just to-the-point. But it worked. At least in the long run. I still get emotional about the loss of people in my own life, but my grandfather’s words/lesson always stayed with me that while we can miss someone (or miss a ladybug), you just…find a way, some way to carry on with your own life. It’s different, for sure, but you do it, because, like he said, you can’t change it, no matter how much you want to, so you have to do your best.
Meg’s explained (in some simple terms) for him in the past why one of my parent’s dogs or our neighbor wouldn’t be around anymore. And someday, we will have to have a more in-depth talk on the topic, of course, but for now, I’m okay with him processing that ladybug’s lack of presence however he wants to in order to understand.