Dear Little: “Do Living Things Breathe and Blink?”

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Hey, Little.

Last week was a week of death, dying, coping, and learning for you. It was a rough week and you handled it like a champ. Better than most adults.

It started with the bird.

Captain and I found a small bird, sparrow, that was suffering from HBC (hit by car) related injuries in the middle of a field during a rainstorm. As this was our nighttime walk, you were home with your dad getting ready for bed. Instead of coming home and taking Captain’s leash off then going to get my PJ’s on, I asked you if you would let me take one of the cardboard boxes you were hoarding in your room.

I mean, you are still 4. There are boxes abound in your room. Your favorite is the one from the online bra shop I splurged to support the ladies and you keep tiny Pokemon in it. There are also toilet paper rolls and other recyclables in addition to Mt. St. Toybox. Every time I walk in there, I’m tempted with the idea of becoming a minimalist, but then look at my own office and realize that I can’t ever do that. You’re off the hook.

You gave me a box (not the bra box which I was hoping for so we could recycle when this was all over). We put a towel in the box, and then you said you were coming with me to the field. As you got your rain coat and boots on, I explained as best as I could that this bird very likely won’t make it. She (he?) was likely not going to survive the evening and she couldn’t stay in the rooms of the house because we have two cats and a bird dog. While we likely wouldn’t save her, she could at least stay in this box downstairs in the basement, away from the rain, away from predators, and if she happens to make it through the night, I could get her some help. I tried my best to impress upon you that her making it through the night was a long shot. You smiled and said, in the way you do:

“O.K!” Big grin and all. It was clear you heard what I was saying, but you didn’t understand what any of it meant. We got in the car, you held the box, we arrived at the field, and I could see her on the ground where Captain and I left her, breathing shallowly and pretty broken. As we approached, I could tell we were too late.

She wasn’t breathing.

I put on my glove and picked up her lifeless body.
I asked you what you saw.

“A baby bird. Wait, she’s bleeding?”

“Yes, baby. She was bleeding.”

“No, she is bleeding.”

“Kiddo, do living things breathe and blink?”

“Yes.”

I didn’t fill in the rest. You curiously looked at her, with your head to one side and seemed to slowly piece it together. This sparrow was no longer breathing. This sparrow wasn’t blinking or trying to fly away. She was just…

There.

As I held the bird and we talked a little bit about what death was, and how we help when we can, and help looks different in different situations, that sometimes we do our best and it’s just not good enough. We can only do what we can do in that moment. And in that moment, all we could do was put her somewhere that she could return to the earth and not be shredded by the Fisher Cats, a couple of feet from the walking path that you would likely pass by later in the week.

You offered to carry her and find a spot. I gave you my gloves. You commented on how light she was. You found the perfect spot under some leaves by the river. We laid her down, and we said a few words. Then we left.

I wasn’t sure if you understood what happened that moment on the field. I wasn’t sure if you got it when we walked with the empty box, clean towel still inside, back to the car.

I was sure you got it after I started the car’s engine when I looked in the rearview mirror, and you sat there silently, looking out the window with tears streaming down your face.

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As we drove the few blocks home in the rain (fitting), you didn’t ask any questions. I asked if you wanted some warm milk and a show while we settled in for bed.

“And snuggles because I’m really sad.”

These were the first words you could muster in 10 minutes.

So we cuddled, drank warm milk and watched Sophia the First while you processed all of it.

And you did a great job.

A few days later, we found a picture of a bird my friend Rachel created. It was of a baby bird a cat attacked in her back yard but she was able to call an avian sanctuary to save it. I read you the story and showed you the picture. You seemed pleased to know that sometimes we can save something that is hurt, and sometimes we can’t.

Hours after seeing Rachel’s painting, I took you to your first wake. We talked about what you might see. There might be an open casket. There might not be. There might be an urn, which is a fancy vase. I told you about cremation and burials. We talked about how when something or someone is dead, their body is still here for a while. It’s like a house but no one is home.

It’s like there is a house, but the people who lived there just left one day.

It was an open casket wake. You were incredibly respectful and contemplative. I held you, told you the family chose an open casket so there was a dead person in the room. I asked if you wanted to see her, and you said yes. We walked over, you looked, and you watched how different people processed grief. While we didn’t know our friend’s mom, you seemed to understand we were there for our friends and that was meaningful. You then wanted to kneel like other people did. While we haven’t done the religious thing with you, I took you over and let you kneel. You asked what you do from there, eyes pointing up to the casket.

“You just have a thought. Whatever thought you like.”

And you did.

I found it quite fascinating that you wanted to go to the funeral the next day, and while we couldn’t go (I had to work and we only have one car), you were struck by the entire process. You were curious about what happens when people die. You asked if she would go in the ground like the bird, and I told you yes – but they would have a big hole and machinery to make sure she was buried properly.

You weren’t scared. You weren’t frightened.

You were brave. You were respectful. You gave support in the way you could to a friend. And, you asked a lot of great questions. I have no idea what I’m doing sometimes or how to handle these things, but you are a kid and if you ask, I’m going to do my best to answer appropriately. Sometimes I’m going to miss the mark (pretty much every question you ask from 12 – 18 will “miss the mark.” Sorry in advance!), but Dad and I will always do our best.

We love you.

-Mom

 

 

Dear Little: Field Trip

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Hi Kiddo,

I went on a field trip as a parent volunteer on your very first field trip. All three parent volunteers had laryngitis and were coughing the whole week leading up to event, but aside from Caleb’s mom who declined as the day went on, we felt fine after a couple of days of yuck earlier in the week. We just sounded terrible, or rather, absent. Your poor teacher looked at the three of us walking in with no voices, quietly turned her gaze to you and your 19 classmates who were bouncing off the walls because it’s your first field trip, then slowly back to us with a blank stare.

I would have cracked a joke, but jokes need voices, and as it turns out, so do parent volunteers. 🙂 

The three parent volunteers, all at a different point in this viral journey, went to the bathroom under the guise of having to pee and passed out pills like Sudafed, DayQuil and cough drops. It felt weird to be hiding in the bathroom built for little children passing out decongestants like the stereotypical rebel kids in high school movies pass out Ecstasy.

You guys were all wonderful and excited. While the general structure of a bus is the same as when I was a wee-little, there was one key difference: Seatbelts. Also the same? While you kids were buckled up, you all tattled on the adults not wearing seatbelts. In our defense, like most buses through the ages there were some broken things, like a window that wouldn’t go back up after it was rolled  slid down and of course, some of the seatbelts. The adults took the seats without the working safety equipment, but all you guys saw were big people not belting up, pining for the day you would not have to buckle up.

It also turned out that this was your first time on a bus. You’ve been at school nearly a complete school year and this was your first time on a school bus. This is clearly a city-kid phenomenon. It was also the most exciting part of the trip for the entire class. While the farm was fun, I’m pretty sure you guys would have been quite content just riding around Metro Boston on a school bus singing at the top of your lungs.

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When we arrived at Smolak Farm, we saw acres upon acres of a New England fruit and veggie farm. There were apple orchards, plum trees, fields for harvesting later in the year, pumpkin patches.

There were also free ranging Quail, which reminded me of the time our country had a vice president shoot a lawyer in the face at a quail hunt. True story. Also, the guy was totally fine, all things considered.

Also, there were some caged animals forever linked to farm life thanks to songs like Old MacDonald, like pigs, chickens, and…

Peacocks.

Yes, Peacocks.

In New England.

And the Peahen, which is the all-white lady counterpart to the peacock in one species of Peafowl. Of all the things I expected to see on the farm, this was not one of them.

 

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Feminist Peafowl says: “It’s a Peahen, not a Lady Peacock, or Mrs. Peacock.”

When we loaded up on the tractors for the hay ride, I realized something. The more the tour guide talked about compost, peaches, apples and growing a corn maze, the more you guys tuned out and longed for the bus – not because you wanted to go back, but because you guys really liked the bus. 

Also, the more she talked, the more the adults listened.

“Really? Compost for 5 years for maximum effect on yearling apple trees. Huh. I never knew that.” I distinctly remembered being a small kid ignoring the tour guides unless they were talking about snack time or pet-the-animals time, and I remember seeing the adults getting into the tour guide’s lecture. I thought they were taking pity on the lecturer, but nope. They were fascinated and trying to take it all in.

Circle of life, I suppose.

As the day went on, the three volunteers alternated between who could vocalize instructions as laryngitis ebbed and flowed through the day. We should have turned the hacking into Morse code for the kids.

Three short. Three long. Three short.
Send another volunteer to aid.

After snack, some running around, a trip to the porta potty (which was the hardest part for all y’all), lunch and back to the bus, half of you sang at the top of your little lungs obscure Disney songs, and the other half passed out cold.

It’s amazing to be four-years-old.

I’m quite certain you won’t ever love the bus as much as you did that day ever again, but man was it so cute.

Love,

Mom

 

Dear Little: Vieques

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Dear Little.

I sat on this post for several months. I should have just posted it when it happened, but I hesitated. It seems like every day the news gets worse and worse about our leadership, our government and yet little beacons of hope pop up everywhere. 5 months ago, you were that little beacon of hope. So here is a story of your history that I really should have posted then, but I’m posting now. I love you.

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Right now, we are here:

 

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Family photo. Dad, me, and you in your classic Pikachus, watching your very first sunrise.

We are here visiting your Aunt Sip and Uncle Doug in their Vieques home. Vieques is a beautiful island off the coast of Puerto Rico’s mainland. And yes, our biggest and most important motivation was to visit your aunt and uncle, we also did not want to miss an opportunity to be away while our current president was inaugurated. The wall to wall coverage of news, Twitter storms from our leadership…or “leadership”…and being in a place where I didn’t have to explain why “Grab her by the pussy” isn’t exactly what you think it means.

 

So we came here to see friends and get away from it all. It is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

We saw fliers around the small island. The Women’s March had found it’s way to this island off an island. I thought about what this march would look like and all I could picture was about 30 people shuffling along in the heat of the day. Your aunt really wanted to participate. As Sip and I talked about it on the patio the night before the march, you chimed in.

“Mommy. I want to march.”

This surprised me. We were not going to march. I didn’t want to do anything political. Part of being here was to tune out all of the hoopla State-side so we can recover and figure out what happens for the next 4 years. My heart wasn’t in it.

I asked you what it meant for you to march. It was important that you knew that it wasn’t a parade with balloons and floats, that it was a bunch of people walking for something that is important to them.

“Mommy. Donald Trump is bad. My friends are scared. Girls can do anything. I want to march.”

I wasn’t going to say no to that.

You made your sign. You worded it and I told you the letters so you could do it yourself. It was very important that you did that. I didn’t want to put words in your mouth or have you carry something you didn’t believe. So you made your sign with printer paper, markers, and a stick you found near the palm trees.

You made one very important, change to your original idea that girls can do anything.

img_20170121_091444576“Donald Trump is Bad. Girls can do EVERYTHING.”

We marched on this tiny island with 3,000-5,000 people who had something to say on this remote island in the middle of the ocean. We marched for your friends, many are minorities. We marched for you, as a young girl who will be affected by the court’s decisions going forward regarding women’s rights – some may be overturned. I am done with childbearing, but you might want kids someday, or not. Your choices might be drastically limited directly because of this administration and appointments. We marched and talked about how to stand up to bullies.

I’m really proud of you. You really wanted to walk, I walked alongside you and Auntie Sip. We gave you the option to go 1/2 way. You refused. With daggers in your eyes, you growled, “No. We keep going,” and you thrust your sign in protest even higher. You left us temporarily in the dust as your tiny legs carried you forward. Sip and I shrugged at each other and kept walking with you at the mile-and-a-half point.

You wanted to keep going with 300 of your new best friends, with your sign held high. You held it just as high for the long walk back.

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I’m so glad we did it. Not only was this your first protest, I’m a little embarrassed to say it was mine, too. We did it together. Your dad had his camera and took amazing photos of the event. You’ll have to ask him about it someday and get his perpsective on it. He said that it was his favorite part of the entire trip, and I have to agree. I’m so glad that you and I marched in our first protest together, for something that I’m glad you believe in alongside one of my best friends in this world, Sip. We agree that girls can do EVERYTHING and that it’s important to stand up to bullies. It’s important to stand up in whatever small way we can to the bad people – and here is the outcome of our little contribution to the marches…and every person who contributed in their own little way across the world.

We contributed to the largest protest across the globe in history.

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You’re my hero, kiddo.

Love,

Mom

 

Dear Little: Cards

Dear Little,

Today you learned how to play Go Fish. Before starting the game, we went over all the cards, and all the suits.

Your nickname is Ace, which proved a bit confusing when showing you the cards.

So naturally, you kept saying the Jack, Queen, King, and Aislyn of Diamonds.

Love,

Mom

Birds

Dear Little,

The following happened while making breakfast this morning:
You (with a snake sock puppet): “How do snakes have babies? Through their belly or through an egg?”

Me: “Their babies come out of eggs.”

You (as your sock puppet): “I’m waiting for the birds. The seagulls are bringing my eggs so they can hatch!”

Me: “Seagulls? Don’t you mean a stork? Did you hear the stork story at school?”

You: Blink. Blink. Blink.

Me: “Um, Ace, did  someone tell you the stork brought babies?”

You:”No, that’s silly. Everyone knows the seagulls bring babies. What’s a stork?”