How are they going to flush Lady?
At this point in the conversation with my then 4 year old, I realized something had gone horribly wrong. But I’ll back up a moment and explain.
When our oldest was about 4, we had our first pet, a Beta fish creatively named “fish”, die. Now, since the fish died while Rylan was in preschool, I could’ve replaced the fish before he got home and pretended like it never happened. Except, I really don’t believe in lying to my children. (Ok, don’t ask me about how we deal with Santa Claus in our house, because then you would call me hypocritical) So when he got home and went to feed the fish, I had to explain that the reason the fish was floating on the bottom of the tank (I always thought they were suppose to float at the top??!?) and not coming up to get the food was because he had died.
Naturally, I expected there to be more questions from him and had spent the last few hours reading up everything I could online about how to handle death with a young child (even if it was just a fish) Instead, Rylan shrugged his shoulders and asked if we were suppose to keep the fish in the tank because it was “kinda grossing him out.”
There were no insightful questions about if everything dies or what happens when you die, just that the dead fish was gross. Thankful that we didn’t have to explain everything right then, I told him we could flush the fish down the toilet since burying him in water seemed appropriate.
Fast forward about a year. We had gone to visit the in-laws, and upon entering the house, Grandma leaned down to tell Ry that Lady, their dog had died. Ry’s eyes grew wide and he nodded his head and Grandma hugged him, interpreting his silence as one of sadness. It wasn’t until I was tucking Ry into bed that night, he finally divulged what was on his mind when I asked him if he was sad about the dog dying.
“Well, a little,” he said, but his little brow was still furrowed in a confused state.
“What’s the matter, buddy?” I asked, sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to remember what I had read all that time ago about what to say to children about death.
“I just don’t understand how they are going to flush Lady down the toilet,” he said, shaking his head.
I probably shouldn’t have laughed.. I’m sure that confused him more about what death means. But the image of my in-laws trying to flush their 80 lb Australian sheepdog dog down the toilet was too much. With as much of a serious face as I could muster, I explained we only flushed Fish down the toilet because he was little and had lived in water. I explained that the dog would be buried in the ground.
Ry accepted this answer with a nod of his head. “That’s good, because I think Lady was too big to go down the toilet and it would’ve made a real mess.”
Yes.. Yes it would’ve. Kind of like the mess that I’ve made in explaining to him the intricacies of death.. which hopefully don’t always involve flushing something down the toilet.