Telling a toddler about death...

We were at  a winery (do you know that wineries and vineyards are insanely child friendly places if you buy a bottle of wine and sit outside) on Wednesday and there was a play tractor for kids to ride around on.  Junia climbed aboard and said, "Look Mama, I drive a tractor like PawPaw."

PawPaw is her name for my father.  She has never met him.  He died several years before she was born.  His death, like all griefs we hold deeply is something I live in and out of.

 This winter and spring Junia has been asking for "ssss tawies" aka stories before bed.  So while we rock her each night whoever is rocking her tells her stories of parents, grandparents, our childhoods, how we met, what adventures we have had that kind of thing.  Through this ritual Junia has come to figure out her family members. She knows that her aunts and uncles are her Mama and Papa's brothers and sisters. She knows that who Buddy (my mom) goes with PawPaw and that he died and that sometimes that makes me cry. She knows all about our childhood pets and our adventures.

I didn't, and I still don't exactly, know how my daugher(s) would form a relationship with my father.  Something I lamented with Sean is how hard it is for me that our children don't get experiences of PawPaw but only will hear stories.  This lament is still true...but it's also very cool for Junia to be forming a relationship with PawPaw if only in the way that story, imagination, family, and myth is being constructed in her reality!


  1. thank you for talking about this.
    when i think about deb being the only grandma that caleb will ever know, it makes me sad and angry. and then i feel incredibly guilty.


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