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

Beer cracking time

peroni north melbourneI cracked a beer at 12 noon today.  Did I mention I was in charge of my 2&1/2 year old?  Rest assured I did not give her one!  But as for me, it is Melbourne, I am on my last week of holiday, and the mercury is at 36.1 ºC.  I feel like a reckless Uni student, having a beer in the middle of the day.  Note to self, must do more often – ok, it does not always have to be a beer, but to capture that spontaneity, that is worth pursuing. Continue reading

Mistakes are proof that you are trying

I almost never talk about work, my blog is a distinct part of my life.  But I had an experience this week that has lingered with me.  I have recently taken on a new role, a wonderful opportunity, though not without some matters needing resolution.

I was right in the midst of what I believe to be the central starting issue, but was only seeing it from my perspective. And as is my nature was wanting to push really hard to resolve, albeit it is a particularly challenging matter.

I had a random conversation with a colleague I don’t know well but for whom I had heard good things about.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  Hadn’t appreciated that my forge ahead was making someone else feel very threatened. That wasn’t my intention. And I had completely forgotten to remember that I had four times the people resources than the other person in question.  It was a timely reminder that it is important to take stock of a situation and try see it from other angles.  And I’m really glad this has happened as it was a needed and important reminder to have at the commencement off taking on an even more senior role.  While it is important to act on the things you believe to be true, there is more than one way to get there, and it is important to realise that.  That old win the war not the battle chestnut.

And it is this that leads me to my quote for July, whether it is work or play

“Mistakes are proof that you are trying”

I am ok with mistakes, how else do you learn?  Doesn’t matter how senior you get at work it is how you handle matters, particularly those that are unintended or have gone wrong that counts.

If your dream home does not exist, create it

My now, back on track, inspiration for the month is

“If your dream home does not exist, create it”

This can be taken large or small.  Home to me means more than just a house, it means how you live your life at home.  I have mentioned earlier this year, in a post or three (!), that I am trying to put the balance back in.  An opportunity for me to really make this happen has transpired, albeit in an unexpected way.  I am changing roles at work. This weekend has been the in-between, between old and new, and while the role is equally senior my shoulders have lifted.  I was not expecting that, but the stress of the role has really dissipated.  Furthermore I am not going to be crazily busy to start with so I am about to lock in the no work in the evenings and weekends routine, so I can have a life, so much so that I do not want to give it up.  And hoping this simple technique sets some parameters with my boss.  So this is the first step for creating my dream home.

Today I visited the Craft & Quilting show in Melbourne.  With life being so hectic both in reality and as afore mentioned also self inflicted I have let weekends slip by.  But not this one!   It was a real treat to head off into the city for a couple of hours leaving the wee sweetheart at home and being responsible only for myself – freedom!  I walked into this hall of amazing creativity.  Just being there was inspirational.  Now my love affair with craft goes back a long way, but it has waxed and waned it terms of attention.  But I came away thinking you never really lose anything, sometimes it just takes time to come back to you.  I was also really touched by the wording on a quilt, “From good deeds sown, friendship grows”.  So my next two steps for creating my dream home are pretty straightforward, craft, craft, and craft some more because I love being creative and I love colour (that is one step!), and the other is remember to have and make time for other people without thought to the outcome.

Last, but definitely not least, we have also made a very big step in creating our future dream home.  Way back in February when I posted this the idea seemed a little left of centre to say the least.  Now we have a view just like that, or at least the makings of one.  It will be some years before we actually build.  But now we have all the fun of imagining a whole home and garden, and a changed way of life.  For the first time in a very long time I feel like my life is back and it really is in my hands to keep the balance. What would you do to create your dream home?

snow capped mountains

And I missed May too!

Slippage, just like April!  So a blog goal of two for June.  Here is the first.

“You are confined only by the walls you build yourself”

I love this.  How often do we hold ourselves back from doing what we really want to? Often thinking that all is out of our control.  Or we can’t possibly do this or that, sometimes matters small like I can’t possibly wear that colour lipstick to matters large like I can’t give up this job, what will I do?

 

I am even more reminded of this tendency as the mum of a young child.  Her enthusiasm and utter lack of boundaries is lush.  Where we often resort to learned habits or do not want to rock the boat.  I say break down those self made fences.

After I finished Uni I was somewhat reluctant to make the next big step, meandering a little, but then a wall breaking moment presented itself and I grabbed it with two hands, and in that moment booked a one-way ticket from NZ to the UK departing 10 weeks later.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  I was fairly certain I wanted to continue my Chemistry path, and my back up thinking was if the worst came to the worst I could work in a pub like all other Kiwis and Aussies!  Would I make the same choice now?  Looking back I was incredibly brave.  Now life has changed, I have an other half and a young girl of two to consider.  But what I need to remind myself of is that brave girl still exists, and I have.  We have just made a purchase of land in another country.  The time frame here is a bit different, years rather than weeks.  But at some as yet to be determined point in the future all I know is I won’t be doing what I do now, and that is exciting beyond measure.

And what happened in that 10 weeks all those years ago – well I organised a post-doc at Imperial College in London, and I never looked back.  The first step is always the hardest. What are your moments and stories?

You-are-confined-only-by-the-walls-you-build-yourself

Lipstick images from: http://weddingseve.com/makeup/get-shinny-glossy-colorful-lipstick-ideas-for-your-lips.php

What I did not do in April

I did not share my quote of inspiration.  To quote from Muriel’s Wedding, “You’re terrible Muriel”, aka North Melbourne Mum.  Well not entirely, but think this means I have to aspire to inspire twice in May!

“Custom build your dreams”

I was not initially inspired by this quote, and thought of cutting it out.  How would any of you know?  But then this began to resonate with me.  How often do we think the ideas of others are great dreams for us, or let others modify or rain down on our dreams?  I remember, probably a tad over thirty years ago now, but can still see clearly in my head.  I was walking down the street with my Dad to a market, it was a Saturday morning.  He asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and I said I wanted to travel.  Ah the dreams of the very youthful.  He said without hesitation, make sure you get a trade behind you.  My Dad wasn’t telling me to be an electrician.  Well he might of been, but I never thought that for an instance.  But he was telling me to have something to fall back on if I wanted to venture across the world.  And I trade I did earn, I became a card carrying scientist, it has taken me across the world, given me unique experiences that I would not otherwise have had.  Dinner on white linen covered tables, nestled on the hills of the Alhambra, Spain with all nationalities of scientists.  An evening that occurred 10 years ago that still resonates because it was picturesque and can recall sitting there and thinking if I did not have my “trade” I would not be a party to this very special experience.  So there you go, that wise advice of my father I did take, but I took it in my own way.  I think that is custom building your dreams.  How about you?