Oh, the woes of a preschooler.
Last night after her gaba and Ivy (Gaba and Papa’s yellow Lab) left to return home, Madeline started crying. “Mommy, I’m going to be so lonesome without Ivy and Gaba. Oh dear. Oh dear. It’s so lonely without Ivy.”
Cough, cough. Sob, sob. Sniffle, sniffle.
Big sob. “And my pumpkin died!” More piteous weeping.
“Oh dear. Oh dear.”
It’s sad but true: Not only have Gaba and Ivy left us, but our pumpkin has seen his last days. The unseasonably warm weather has rotted his insides and when I saw a slug crawling out of his eye as we waved good-bye to Gaba, I told Madeline it was time for him to go to the great big pumpkin patch in the sky.
I curled close to my little girl and tried not to laugh at her mourning over her pumpkin or her loneliness brought on by Gaba and Ivy’s departure (we’re going to see them – Gaba and Ivy, not the pumpkin – again next weekend, folks), and she wrapped her arms around me and said, “Mama, mama, don’t go.”
So I didn’t, not right away. The best way to crush a child’s growing empathy is to not be empathetic yourself. I told her I was sorry she was so sad, but that it was time to go to sleep. I told her things will be alright (and they were after only a few minutes of raw sadness).
Then I handed her her sleep mask. “I have to wipe my wet tears away first or it will be sticky and it won’t feel good,” she said.
And so she did, and her tears stopped, the rhythm of her breathing slowed, and I cocooned her in my embrace and stayed for a little while longer and found that her need for me to pacify her genuine sadness somehow assuaged my own feelings of uncertainty.