Once you are a parent, your pores open up and more of life’s stuff gets inside you. You can’t screen out the horror stories about what happens to little children because there is a little child on your lap now, and you can’t help thinking, Oh my God, what if that happened to him?
I’ve always been a kid person. I wanted to be a mum for a long time before I became one. But I didn’t know how tired I’d be. Or how angry I’d get. I had no idea that the stakes would feel so high and the losses would loom so big. Parenting is scary and painful — it breaks your heart.
A while ago we buried a family pet in the backyard. We were open about it. We petted the dead cat and put him in a box and talked about the Tenth Good Thing About Barney. This happened to fall about a week from the anniversary of the death of my grandmother. I didn’t make the connection until I was woken that night by the sound of my almost 5-year-old crying next to me. He had crawled into my bed and was shaking and sobbing. He could hardly talk and I was instantly alarmed. I felt his head for a fever, but he was not hot.
“What is it, Bubba?” I asked.
“W-w-when, y-y-you die, I w-w-won’t be able to s-s-see you anymore.” I could barely make out the words through his choking sobs.
I wanted to say, “NO! No, that WILL NOT HAPPEN. I will always be with you, and you don’t have to feel this pain because life is rainbows and silliness and birthday cake and fun!”
But that would have been a lie.
“Oh sweetie, I know.” I shook off my sleepiness and looked him in right in his sweet face.
“M-m-mum,” he blubbered, “Wh-wh-wh-hen you are d-d-d-dead, I will put up s-s-s-so many p-p-pictures of you.”
I burst into tears. I burst into tears every time I read that and remember how sad he was that night. My boy. He woke up wondering how he will cope when I die. He felt this deep sorrow and he came to me for support. So I gave it.
“Oh, I know, I am so, so sorry.” I hugged him tightly and we cried. “Pictures are a really good idea. I know this is so hard to think about.”
He cried hard and I said nothing to talk him out of it.