How do you tell small children about death?

This is not meant to be a sombre post at all, rather I am sharing how I have tackled what I think is one of the more difficult concepts for young children, that of people dying.

I am a scientist by training, a fact is a fact. So I always like to tell the truth. On the flip side I love to indulge the imaginary – Father Christmas/Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy (not yet required and apparently I will have to take out a mortgage for how much you get a tooth these days!) are alive and well in our house. And I will be endeavouring to keep them believed for as long as possible. However the opportunity to broach death for the first time presented itself.

I have just been away from my daughter for the longest time in her life to date (four nights), having gone home to support my sister after the death of my brother-in-law. I may have mentioned before, we are a small family, albeit one stretched in age range – 15 years between my sister and I (12 and 1/2 years between my brother and I), and there was 17 years between my sister and her husband. While his death was anticipated it perhaps happened a little earlier than we all thought, and knowing it was going to happen certainly did not make it any easier for my sister.

When I returned my almost but not quite yet 5 year old asked why I had gone (she also told me she had missed me), to which I replied that I had been supporting my sister, which was swiftly followed by why? Having thought I would not say anything yet about death, in that moment it just seemed like the right thing to say. And so I explained, remember Uncle C, the man with the funny glasses (on Skype he would always put on fake glasses with a false nose to talk to her) well he has died, he has gone to sleep for ever; and I went home to support Aunty C. Supporting my sister seemed to make sense to her. However she did double check – “he isn’t going to wake up?

Sitting on the stairs was a copy of the funeral service with his photo, and when we walked up I asked her who that was. She said “that’s Uncle C but he’s dead“, in that kind of dismissive, I am not interested in him anymore tone. Not long after, “where is he if he has gone to sleep for ever?” For now I have suggested he is a cloud in sky, to which she asked, “which one, how do we know which one is his?” Great question, fortunately I got away with we will have to look. There has been a few ‘dead’ comments, lots of her toys have died, but nothing too serious, and the topic has now faded away.

So for anyone about to broach this topic, I do not think there is a right or a wrong time, nor a better or a worse time, simply opportunities will present themselves and you take the one that feels right for you. And if you have some tips for what to say when “the cloud” notion no longer cuts it, I would be glad to hear them.

telling children about death

The real joy of Nana

Trying to get day care in Melbourne is a little like a lottery, only the impact of not winning can have a larger outcome. We are currently waiting for an extra day to become available for our daughter at daycare – we are one day short per week. So her Dad has covered a couple of weeks, and then we put the call into Nana who lives over the Tasman sea. She was with us covering three days (as in one day a week for three weeks), as well as generally making life easier for us. And then we are back to Daddy daycare for that day.

Nana (and Pop – who stayed at home this time) are very accomodating. We only have two bedrooms, and so they stay on an airbed (double height I should mention) in our little girl’s room. Now we have been having trouble with the afore mentioned little girl – she keeps waking in the middle of the night and wanting to sleep in Mum and Dad’s bed. We have been trying to figure out if she is scared of the dark, cold, not feeling well, just doesn’t want to be by herself. We have been trying different tricks, lights, more/different blankets, if we were not so tired we would give her a cuddle and put her back to bed after 10 minutes. We know we have to get this figured out. And then along came Nana. For almost the entire time she was here, while our little girl would still wake in the night, she would hop herself into the air bed with Nana. So Mum and Dad have experienced almost three weeks of sleeping through the night. Oh what a feeling! Of course normal transmission has resumed, and we are back to square one. New tactics about to be trialled.

tired parents north melbourne


Stating the obvious

What did I learn on Friday…that I need some child, other half, and work free time on a regular basis. And also think that time should be during the week. Now I do not mean every week (though that might be nice…). It just hit home that I need to escape work and family and just be me, something that rarely makes it to the top of the ‘to do’ list. Probably have known this for a while but perhaps afraid to admit it aloud. Though have said a version of this before – the whole life is too crazy, rant of a working mum springs to mind. Friday was in hindsight a needed reinforcement. Life has got too crazy again, and an action plan is in the making.

In the interim here is evidence from Friday. I was heading home after an appointment to continue work rather than head to back to the office. Instead I actively waylaid myself at the shops, wandering here and there, stopped and ate a late lunch, and it was all fun! The photo does not clearly show it, but the black at the back is two items not one, a pair of trousers and a black jumper. If you are going to confess – have to ‘fess it all up!

How do you find me time amongst the madness of work and motherhood?

North Melbourne

Where the Wild Mums Are

For all you Mums (and Moms) out there.  Get yourself, or read someone else’s copy of Where the Wild Mums Are by Katie Blackburn, and beautifully illustrated by Sholto Walker. It is the perfect book, maybe for when you have got past one of ‘those days’! I could not resist and bought it for myself.


Innocence of our children

There is something about childhood, innocence may be the right word.  Or carefree and without worry.  Certainly that ability to say it exactly as it is.  It is a shame we grow up, or in growing up that we lose some of that carefree-ness and inhibition.

What I am reflecting on today is whether I am already taking away some of that innocence from my daughter, unintentionally.  With the change in my working routine such that I take every second Monday off to have a day with my daughter I get excited and talk about this day off.  Indeed even before that I would often and still do say on a Friday night, it’s the weekend – yay.  And I have noticed that my daughter reflects this.  I say to her I have a day off work and you have a day off daycare, with a bit of celebratory squeal and raising of the hands and arms.  She has just started saying, unprompted, I have a day off, yay.

Is it sad that she already recognises the difference between the week and the weekend, being at daycare and having a ‘day off’?  Perhaps I am over estimating her comprehension – she is after all not quite three and a half yet.  And really what I may be seeing is my little sweetheart mimicking something that she sees her mother delighted about.  I am going to go with that – otherwise I will be taking on mother guilt and that will diminish the joy I have from changing to 9 working days a fortnight, and make me feel that the next step I am about to take – asking to go to 4 days a week is not enough.  When it will make all the difference in the world to me, and hopefully to her.


A new online experience beckons: an education superstore

As a busy working mum I am a big fan of saving time whenever I can, to have more time to spend either with my sweet girl, her father, or heaven forbid all to myself!  Now as you know I am not always highly successful with this, in fact we know sometimes that I fail miserably, but I am never without hope of improvement.  There is nothing like a Monday to start afresh, and my personal favourite a Monday that starts on the first of a month.  Of course I am not convinced that this ever makes any difference, but hey I will take all the help I can get!

I may now have another trick up my sleeve.  As I have occasionally mentioned I am a fan of both online shopping and looking for a bargain, and a hallelujah moment can ensue when they coincide!  Well there is a new kid on the block in the form of a new online toy retailer superstore, that may just give me one of those moments.

As a scientist who inherently believes in education it resonates with me that this online store is primarily geared towards educational toys and games, that idea of learning through play.  Now of course I am a big fan of play for play’s sake.  For example me pretending to be a tiger, I do with some regularity for my little girl; we tickle, we giggle, we paint nails. However the inner geek in me goes science and maths toys – way cool – sad I know!  But hey my girl has been told why leaves are green and blood is red (magnesium and iron porphyrins in case you were interested – thank you PhD thesis) since before she could talk!

There are also free learning activities to download – including handwriting practice and colouring in sheets.  We are just getting into colouring in at home, so I may find myself hitting this up for some action.  And with over 3,000 toys and resources available, selected by the site’s specialist team of former teachers and educators, there should be something for everyone.  I will let you know what I find.  What have been your children’s favourite toys?

north melbourne

My thanks to all you other Mums

I wanted to thank everyone that responded to my heartfelt post about overload.  I have been touched by every response.  Something so beautiful about Mums and the blogging community.  And I am pleased to say that I am taking two very tangible steps to making my work life balance better.  The first is that due to quite a large amount of accrued annual leave I am in a position to take a day off every fortnight for the rest of the year, and still have a reasonable amount of leave left.  A three day weekend every other week…utter bliss!  I think it will really help with me not taking work home as well, as I will put up my auto-reply out of office email on a Friday night and I think actively switch off from work.  I will probably wish that it was every week!  And I will admit I did seriously think about that, I almost had enough accrued annual leave to do that, but then would have nothing up my sleeve should a holiday opportunity arise.  So as off June that will be my working life for the rest of the year, nine days a fortnight.  You might say I am counting down.

The second is more work related.  I am about to meet with an executive coach because I want to ensure I am delegating as effectively as I could.  Now I do not think I am bad at this, but I think I could do with some improvement in this regard.  I am always a person to take on responsibility, forgetting I have a great team to assist me, and that my role is to lead.  Albeit I personally think good leadership includes some doing.  So some work on my lead/do balance is something I have initiated and I am looking forward to this as well.

So hopefully pretty soon I will look like this more often – and I will get to spend more time with my wee crazy!