Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Existential crises and other weekend activities

So I bought kiddette a book about Emma Lazarus. This seemed like a good idea at the time. She's fascinated with the Statue of Liberty, which I expect we'll be visiting at some point when the weather warms up (HAHAHA that's a good one, clearly we are going to be having winter forever and I will be driving to work in the snow every day from now on), and this lovely children's book explains all about Emma and how she wanted to advocate for immigrants and so she wrote the poem that's engraved on the base. You know the poem. Don't make me weep for the future of literacy in America. Just say you know the poem.

Kiddette loved the book and we were reading it when, toward the end, she wanted to know where Emma was. Here's the thing: Emma died young, before the poem was added to the base. The book gently phrases it as "she lived a short time after" or something like that, so kiddette missed the nuance. So I explained to her that Emma -- who I'd already said was a real person, who lived a long time ago -- had died.

Now I've had endless conversations about death with kiddo, but in this interested abstract sort of sense. Most notably, during the opening chapter of "The Secret Garden," but I had that coming because everyone Mary knows dies of cholera by page 12 or so.

Kiddo: Do people die of cholera?

Me: No, that was a long time ago, no one dies of cholera now.

Kiddo: Daddy's sick. Will he die of cholera?

Also, he was fairly gleeful about the evil aunts getting squished by the peach in "James and the Giant Peach," but in his defense, they are pretty evil.

So I've gotten used to the idea that death is an endlessly fascinating topic but not an upsetting one.

Kiddette, apparently, begs to differ. As soon as I told her Emma Lazarus was dead, she dissolved into tears and was inconsolable for several minutes. Then she started asking whether various family members were going to die. Then she asked whether she was going to die.

Sweetheart. Seriously. You are 4.

I'm not going to lie to her -- obviously, otherwise I would've said Emma Lazarus is totally fine and lives right around the block -- but I'd like to be diplomatic about these things whenever possible. So I said that everyone dies eventually, but that she was going to live a long long time and grow up and do wonderful things, and she seemed fine with that. I have no idea if that's what you're supposed to say. I never looked it up, because I didn't expect to be having this conversation with a 4-year-old. Next she's going to ask me where babies come from.

Kiddo meanwhile is -- well, it's hard to say. He's had a couple of good-enough days at school. He hasn't complained about the vest -- to us, anyway. He got a good report card (as expected, just fine academically, less so behaviorally). But he's been a hair-trigger away from a meltdown on pretty much a constant basis. On Saturday, he utterly flipped because he didn't have time to watch TV before karate class, to the point where I nearly didn't bring him to class. On Sunday, he utterly flipped because the guests for our impromptu Super Bowl party were running late and he wanted them to come play with him. Today, he utterly flipped because he would not be woken from his nap and thus missed out on playing in the snow during his 197876879732877684th snow day of the year. I wonder what he'll utterly flip about tomorrow?

He's got no coping skills, emotionally. Something that would be a minor annoyance to another kid is a major crisis to him, and he can't process it. I don't know if it's the ADHD or the OCD talking, or if they're just sort of ganging up on him and it's a team effort. I can't lie -- it's exasperating, even knowing he's not doing it on purpose. I'm not always sure what to do about it.

Today was kind of a freebie with the snow day, but we'll see how he does the rest of the week. If the modified class accommodations keep helping, great. If not ... hmm.


  1. Yes, another snow day. Two in one week....I won't lie and say I don't love a good snow day. But, but, my co-workers and I have a lot to do in the guidance office this time of the year! Delaying it doesn't make anything easier!

    I'm not a parent, so honestly, I don't know what the right or wrong thing is to tell a child about death. I do believe it is better to be honest, but to choose your words carefully. I don't think it's unusual for a four year old to ask such hard questions or to worry that something is going to happen. It's a tough topic and from the sounds of it, you handled it beautifully.

    As for the kiddo and coping skills....that's tough and it's hard to say what the cause is. It could be any number of things. In my experience with my nephews and working with the big kids in the high school, what's most important is to hold firm. You can acknowledge the disappointment they may have, but don't allow them to take over. It's a frustrating and difficult lesson to learn, but one that if you stick to it, it will work in the long run. I hope the vest continues to help and school days continue to improve!

  2. Hi Kristen! Yeah, I can see the upside of snow days, but they're such logistical nightmares sometimes.

    Thanks for your thoughts -- I hope things improve too. We haven't had any death talks since the last one, so crisis averted, maybe.