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Sunday, January 16, 2011

I Don't Want You to Die, Daddy.

Horyon and I decided a long time ago that we were going to be honest with Maxine about death and dying.  We talked about my grandfather after he passed away three years ago, and she seemed to understand as well as one can expect a two-year-old to understand.  Since then she has learned a lot, and the other day in the car on the way home from preschool she cried to me, "I don't want you to die, Daddy!"

I can't remember the last time I wanted so badly to lie.  I wanted to stop the car, hold her in my arms, and tell her that I would not die, that I would always be there for her.  I just wanted her to feel better, and to be reassured, and I wanted with all of my heart for it to be true.

Another example of why it is a good idea to make big decisions before the pressure hits.

I did my best to reassure her that I would probably not die soon.  I talked with her about Heaven, and how we would be there together.

She was not in the mood for it.  "I don't want to go to Heaven!" she cried.  "I want to stay here!  I don't want to move to Korea!"

Don't they look like they're ready to move?
Aha.  There it is.  As painful as it is for me and Horyon to tear up our lives, at least we've been through it before.  Maxine was too young when we moved here, and doesn't remember it at all.  Now we are selling our life here, bit by bit.  When we sold her dresser she cried for five minutes.  "I want to keep my stuff!  I love my stuff!"  I am hoping that going through this now will make her better able to part with stuff later in life, but it is absolutely no fun.

Earlier this week she figured out that we would be leaving this house and not coming back.  She hugged the wall, crying, and said, "I don't want to leave this house!  I love this house!"

I don't even want to contemplate telling her that she will not see Grandpa and Grandma for a long time.

Later Horyon told me that Maxine had watched a video earlier in the day in which a character had died, and it seems that it connected for the first time.  A separation that lasts forever.  An end to something that seemed to be eternal.

I tell myself that this is actually building trust with Maxine, that she is learning to believe what I tell her.  I know in my head that I am helping her, but can be hard to believe.  Fortunately, it works in the short term as well.  For example:

In November we all got flu shots, and Maxine did not do so well.  She screamed.  She kicked.  A nurse had to help me hold her down while she got the shot, and it bled afterwords because her blood pressure was sky high.  It hurt her arm for a few days, because we couldn't hold her completely still, even after seeing Mommy and Daddy take their shots.

Then last week we had to get her last three immunization shots.  It had been two months, which is usually an eternity for Maxine, but she remembered the flu shot like it was yesterday.  We didn't tell her where we were going when we got in the car, but eventually we had to.  The tears started, and I started a pep talk:

I reminded Maxine why her flu shot hurt so much, and talked about how we could avoid it this time.  I made her promise, multiple times, pinky promise, that she would look at me, not the nurse during the shot. We talked about the antibody game she played on with Sid the Science Kid.  We talked about how being healthy makes you less likely to die.  We talked about silly things, and our favorite songs.  And when it was time she sat on my lap and cried, but she didn't scream or kick or thrash.  She did her best to look at my face during the shot, as I reminded her that she had promised to look at me.  And when she found that it would be one shot in the left arm and two in the right, the tears started to seriously flow.

But she kept her eyes on mine, and soon it was over.  Soon she was just sniffly, rather than outright crying.  She said "thank you" to the nurse and receptionist as I carried her out.  She let me carry her out, understanding that there was a reason for the pain I had put her through.  And then we went to Orange Leaf and got ice cream, even though it was after 5:30 and getting close to dinner time.  There were smiles and laughs, and she said that her arm hurt less than before.

Maybe trust only grows out of tears.  Maybe you can't really believe in someone until you've been through some kind of hell with them.  If that is the case, then this move to Korea may be an opportunity to build my family, and strengthen us.

I don't think I will be able to convince Maxine that dying is not a big deal, because it is still a big deal to me.  When she asked me if I was going to die someday and I said yes, I felt okay.  But when she asked if great-grandma was going to die, it was a good thing that she was in the back seat where she couldn't see my tears as I said yes, someday she would.

At this point, I am just grateful that Quinten is too young to understand what is going on.  Yeah, he's going to have and inflict a miserable 24 hours on everyone within earshot, but then it will be over for him.  The new faces and places will be confusing at first, but Mommy, Daddy and Maxine will be there, so he will settle down quickly.  And hopefully get over the jet-lag quickly as well.


Jeffrey said...

Rob, that is a great story - food for thought for all of us. It's need to see your kids about? maybe? the same age our kids were back in the day in Korea.

Mike Harford said...

Just reading your blog about shots made me grin. I have one child (Emily) that would prefer to be sick than have a shot. I also have one that takes it with a grain of salt. Emily blames me for her condition of fearing shots. She remembers me telling her stories of me having to get shots in my Neck, Back, Knee and several in my arm pit. Yes Arm pit! That was a mistake. I never dreamed it affect her like it did. I told her this to illustrate things could be worse. Instead....well you know.

As far as Death and children go. I could offer a clinic on it. I believe honesty is the best policy. The worse part of any death is emotions. I learned greif can be over come. My youngest (Kayla) taught me this. She didn't realize it at the time...but she did. Everytime I took my girls to the cemetery to their mother's grave, Emily won't get out of the car. She would just sit there and cry. The kind of tears that hurt deeply to watch. But Kayla would get out and change the flowers and clean the head stone. She had a peaceful look on her face. One day she did a cartwheel. ? What was that for? I asked. I wanted to show Mom I could do one. Wow! That's when I realized Her Mother was still here with her. She wasn't holding onto the thoughts of loss. She was sharing her love and memories of her Mother every momment. Just as we hold the love of Christ. It helped me convey this life lesson to Emily. She is doing much better now. I have alot more thoughts......but another time my friend. Be Happy

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.