Most parents dread the day they have to explain the concept of death to their children. That they'll have to shatter their belief that we'll all be here forever. And while some people like to go with Honey, we sent Daisy the dog to live with another family when their animals pass, I've always been more of a realist. When Goofy the guinea pig inexplicably dropped dead last year, I gave it to my five- year-old straight. And what else could I do, considering the fact that we had found her lifeless body together? She was pretty upset, but after a proper burial, impromptu memorial service in the backyard and a brand new guinea the next week, she seemed to move on pretty quickly. *big sigh of relief*
But when our beloved German Shepard, Jordan, collapsed late Tuesday night, explaining to a five year old that the dog she's loved since she was born might not come home was a whole other story.
In fact, it was one of my first thoughts as I raced to the "Animal ER". (Well, that and the fact that "Animal ER" would make a great reality show) As I waited the THREE HOURS to see Dr. McDoggy, I wondered what I'd say to the kids when she wasn't there to lick their faces in the morning and silently prayed that she had just eaten something really, really bad. But four hours and *gasp* $1500 (WTF! Are animals eligible for universal health care too?) later, Dr. McDoggy gave me the diagnosis and it wasn't good. Jordan had cancer.
Needless to say, it was turning into a bad night. The only bright spot? That Dr. McDoggy was damn cute. And had an accent. In fact, his only flaw was his tendency to have more dramatic pauses in his speech than Ryan Seacrest on elimination night of American Idol. It's 4am, dude! Just spit it out!
And because I believe in being honest, I broke the news to the kids the next day. That Jordan was very sick, she may not be with us much longer, so let's just give her all the love and enjoy every minute that she's with us. That should do it, right?
*insert three hours of screaming and crying followed by thousands of uncomfortable theological questions*
But now a few days later, they seem to be getting through it. But I have to say, there is a part of me that wishes we hadn't told them. Which begs the question: How long should we shield our kids from death?
I've always been the mom that told my kids that if they crossed the street without me, they would get hit by a car. Same story with the pool. Don't go in without Mommy. Why? Because you'll drown. And while some of my friends thought my approach was a bit, um, harsh, I always felt like it was better for them to know that if they step out in front of a moving car, the shit's going to hit the fan.
But now, I'm not as sure. Life and death are such complex concepts that I'm not sure they grasp them. And the last thing I want is for my kids walking around being scared to death of, well, death!
Sadly, our elderly neighbor passed away this week. And after my experience with Jordan, when the kids asked me why I was buying his wife flowers last night, I just smiled and said nothing. Because I think they've had enough life lessons for one week.