Evidently three is the age when kids start to figure out that with separation comes sadness. Usually when we leave my family in NY, Emma is sad but bounces back pretty quickly. She gets caught up in the excitement of riding in a plane or the anticipation of seeing other family members. It was not so this year as we left Syracuse. Initially she was fine, but as the plane landed she started crying and couldn't be comforted. She wanted to go back to her wawa's house. She wanted to see her cousins. As we got in the car for the ride home she continued to bawl. We gave my mom a call and Em sobbed to her about how much she missed her and how she didn't have a heart anymore. She couldn't watch the sunset because she was just too sad. It was pretty heart-wrenching. While I don't think it's healthy to wallow in emotions like that I do want her to know that it's okay to mourn. Being separated from ones you love is sad.
A week ago today Matt's grandpa passed away. This is the first time Em has lost someone to death. With her family in NY, she can take comfort in the fact that she can see them again at Christmas. She has a concrete time to look forward to. Seeing someone someday in heaven is not quite so concrete for a three year old. The night that he passed Matt was putting her to bed and she started crying because she wasn't going to see Big Papa anymore. Today as I was putting her down for a nap she kept asking me if I was going to get old. I kept explaining that everyone gets old. Her response was, "But not mommies, right?" I went on to say that getting old was a part of life. Mommies get old and even she will get old someday. Then her little chin started quivering and she said, "But I don't want you to go to heaven." Oh goodness. Break my heart.
I'm not really sure what to do with that. To me, heaven is hope. To her, heaven is separation. It makes me wonder if in trying to bring comfort to our kids, we're really skewing their views. I'm not sure. I know I don't want Em just praying a prayer sometime in her young life just so she thinks she can go to heaven someday and see those that she loves again. Of course I want her to follow Jesus. But, there's a huge difference between following Jesus and wanting to see loved ones again. Are there things that we should wait to explain to our kids until they can think more abstractly so as not to confuse them? Is heaven one of those things, at least when paired with death? Just thinking out loud. What are your thoughts?