It is sometimes amazing to me how difficult it can be to explain things to children. It doesn't even have to be a difficult topic. Many times, it is just defining something that we just know. Sweetpea and Wildman have had more than their fair share of facing the facts of life this past month. Particularly, dealing with death.
During the past month we have been to two funerals for family members. Sweetpea is too young, of course, to really understand what is going on. She has been a real trooper with the long drives and flights that we have taken. Wildman, on the other hand, is at the age of questions. Prior to this month, Wildman had been to a military memorial service at 2 months of age and then a funeral for a different grandmother at 2 years of age. At the funeral, there was an open casket and we made sure not to use the words "sleeping" or she got "sick" so that he wouldn't get confused. The difficulty with the most recent funeral experiences was the differences between the services.
The first service we went to at the beginning of June was for my Great-Grandmother, so Wildman and Sweetpeas' Great-Great-Grandmother. She was 4 months shy of her 100th birthday. Her visitation and funeral involved an open casket. We had also visited her a month beforehand, so it was easier for Wildman to relate the person he had visited with the person in the casket. He was able to see her and see that she was not moving.
The difficulty was with the second service. Exactly a month after my Great-Grandmother died, my paternal Grandfather died. He had been ready to go. He wanted to be with my Grandmother, who had died 3 years ago. My grandparents had decided they would be cremated so they could be buried together at the veteran's cemetery. This is where the explanation gets difficult. At the end of the service, everyone had their chance to go up to the front and say their goodbyes to both Grandparents. Wildman was confused about the "box" being so small. At that moment, I told him that both Great Grandparents were in there and we were saying goodbye. I said I would explain when we got to the car.
As we were heading to the car, I was trying to decide how to explain cremation to a 3 year old. I explained that, when a person's body stops working and they die, some people choose to have their body buried, while others choose to have their body turned into ashes. I reminded him that your brain and body no longer works. I explained that Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma wanted to be together and decided to have their bodies turned into ash to be buried. I left it at that and he seemed content with that answer. He didn't ask about how bodies are turned into ash, so I didn't feel the need to mention fire. We are also not really religious, so there was no need to mention afterlife or anything along those lines. I feel good about my response. It seemed to help Wildman and he seemed content with the answer.
Have you had to explain death to your kids? If so, how did you explain it? If not, are you waiting for them to ask you or do you have an age that you plan on discussing it with them?
On a lighter note, but still dealing with the facts of life. Wildman was in the tub the other night and he was discussing how, when he has a baby, he will feed it with his boobs ;-) I then had to explain to him how boys can't have babies. He wanted to know why. Now, he does know about the differences between boys and girls, so I just had to expand on our previous discussions. Needless to say, he didn't seem to think it was fair that he wouldn't be feeding any future babies!