The things they know

When we spend weekends at the farm with my parents, often they’ll take Littleman to church with them on Sunday mornings.  I grew up in a Catholic household, attending Catholic school and going to church every Sunday with my parents.  As an adult, I no longer practice any religion, however we did have our children baptised and Littleman enjoys going to mass with his grandparents.

On this particular Sunday, my mom and Littleman attended the children’s portion of the service, which includes a story and short lesson.  The teacher was asking the children what they could do to be more like Jesus (or something along those lines).  Apparently kids were giving ideas like praying or being nice to their siblings.  The teacher talked about how important it is to be kind to your brothers and sisters.  Makes sense, right?

This, though, is when my mom got confused.  Littleman turned to her and said, “I had a sister, but she died.”  What?  My mom was genuinely confused.  She told him, no he didn’t.  So he clarifies.  “Yes, she was in mommy’s tummy before Bo, but she died.”

Understandably, my mom doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about my miscarriage that happened almost two years ago so it wouldn’t have been the first thing she thought of.  She came home from mass and told me about the conversation.  It blew my mind.  First of all, Littleman was only two years old when I had the miscarriage.  He knew about the pregnancy, but since I was only 14 weeks along, we didn’t know whether it was a boy or a girl.  He always called it his sister, but we certainly hadn’t told him that.  Also, we definitely never told him that he had a sister who died.  Yes, he knew that the baby was gone, but he was very young and we didn’t think he understood very much about what was happening.  Only a few months later, I was pregnant with Bo and, now, he’s had a brother for almost a full year.  What would make him remember that?

I remember now the strange moment a few days before I learned of the miscarriage.  I was putting Littleman to bed when he looked up towards the ceiling and muttered some gibberish.  Then he said “Puppet gone.” (Puppet was our nickname for the baby we lost).  At the time, I assumed this was just toddler nonsense, but later would learn that he was absolutely right.

All this has made me realize that there is a whole lot that goes on in his little mind.  It also made me realize that things that happen when our kids are very young can still have quite an impact on them – much more than we would expect.  Yes, that time in our lives was very hard and I was struggling a lot, but I had no idea that Littleman was aware of what was going on to this extent.

I wonder what sparked him to remember that loss and whether it’s something he’ll forget about with time.  I, of course, still think about it a lot and talk about it with those who I know care to hear it.  But it isn’t something we talk about with our young kids right now.  He didn’t mention it again after they got home from church and I never brought it up with him.  I guess I should think about how to explain it to him if he brings it up again.  Any suggestions for talking about miscarriage with a preschooler?

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5 thoughts on “The things they know

  1. Our situation was a little different, in that Gus had 3 siblings that had died before he was born, so when Firefly died, he was already familiar with death. I think just being open, honest, age-appropriate and letting Littleman lead the conversation would be the best approach. Also, it will be several conversations that you have with him, not just one, and the conversations might come up when you don’t really expect them to. I remember one time, just within the last few months, that Gus came our of his room at bedtime to ask “Why did Oscar, Bella, Tittle and Firefly die? I don’t remember.”

  2. Phew, it can definitely be shocking to realize what they were aware of / remember from such a young age. My sis-in-law died when Stella was 2y3m old, and Stella talks about Jaime all the time and about her life in Heaven. It’s pretty amazing.

  3. The wee woman used to talk about her brothers and sisters all the time- how they were in heaven, but she got to play with them now and then. Freaked me out in some ways, but it was comforting in others. I am no longer a religious person either, but it does make you wonder a bit.

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