Thursday, March 17, 2011

missing toys.

early last week

a couple of maddy's

toys went missing.

a zebra stuffed animal and

her baby doll.

for a few days

she asked me where

they'd gone.

i had no idea.

her stuff goes

missing all the time,

and i usually find

it pretty quickly.

i've searched everywhere

for them.

they're not

in any of the

usual places

(i'm convinced they disappeared at daycare and have been buried under a mountain of toys, to be discovered accidentally sometime in the future).

but i told her

that i'd do my

best to find them.


a few days went by

during which she

didn't mention her

missing toys.

then on monday,

on the way to daycare

she suddenly said,

"daddy? where are my zebra and baby?"

i gave her the

same answer i've

been giving all along:

"i don't know. but i'm going to keep searching."

then maddy said,

"my zebra and baby are dead, just like my mommy."



it's not the first

time she's talked

about her mommy

being dead,

(and it hurts everytime)

but it's

the first time she's

demonstrated to me

that she has at least

a tacit understanding

of what death means.


i keep looking for

those missing toys, but

now i'm worried that

if i find them

and give them to her,

i'll be fucking up

her understanding of death.


if i do

find them,

i'll put my worries

aside, give her

the toys

and do my best

to once again,

explain death

to a child under 3.

(and i know for sure that this never gets easier).


  1. Oh boy, this IS so hard, I can't imagine it will get easier. My three year old does have some memories of her dad, but only when he was sick. She remembers the road to the hospital, I avoid taking this road as much as possible because every time I drive down it she thinks we are going to see daddy. She randomly comes out with comments like, "I miss daddy" and "when is daddy coming back?" One time she said, "daddy doesn't like us." It is just impossible to explain where he is and why he isn't here to her. It rips my heart out.

    I find myself wondering how his death will affect all of my children as time goes on. My older three have many, many memories of thier dad. They know how fun he was and how much he loved doing things together. They know we were his whole world and he would have walked through fire for us. They also know he got sick and wanted to get better. They know he loved them and fought like hell to stay with us. My three year old has no other memories except he was sick. She sees his picture and knows that it is her daddy.

    I wonder...which is better? Having many, many great memories of their wonderful, loving, playful, full of life dad who got cancer and lost the battle far too quickly, watching him go from healthy to hospice in just a few short months? Or, like, my three year old, only images? No memory of watching him die over a short period of time, but also,sadly, no memory of how incredible he was and getting to feel his love and how incredibly proud he was of her.

    I don't know, I guess neither one is "better." It just stinks no matter how you look at it.

    Lots of love to you and your daughter, I hope her toys are found soon. :)

  2. Loved it's not any easier with an 18 and 21 year old either! Don't know, as a parent how to explain something that I don't ever understand.

  3. A child's understanding of death grows as they do so it's hard to fuck up really. And they will believe whatever they need to in order to move on just like adults do. We think of them as so fragile but in some ways they are stronger than we are with that brutally linear logic of theirs.I envy my daughter's lack of memory where he dad is concerned. Her only recall is mine and he is abstract, so she doesn't miss him the way those who knew him do. Not knowing my own birthparents, I know that is difficult to miss someone you never knew.

    I am careful not to impose my feelings, memories or residual angst on her. My late husband's father died when he was six and he told me that the worst thing about it was always be expected to walk in his dad's shadow. "You look like him" "You talk like him" etc. "But I am not him," he said, "and it felt like I could never be me and be good enough. I felt as though I had to make it up to everyone for him dying."

    When I told him he didn't look a thing like his dad (only a bit around the edges really) I never saw anyone look so relieved. So I am careful with our daughter though I suspect that even without my vigilance, she would be fine.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the doll and zebra. Toys go missing like socks do. It's inevitable when you have children and feet.

  4. With a father like you, she's going to be OK. You're a treasure.

  5. Matt,
    I often worry about the same thing .... how much have I f'd up my children? But mine were 23, 20, 20, 17, 15, and 13. It's the two youngest that I truly worry about, because they had the "before mom" and are old enough to know that she left them almost as much as their dad did 3 years ago. And just like him, she's not coming back. Not all of her anyway. And in many ways, that sucks for them. In others though, I think it's a positive thing. The "after mom" chooses her battles a lot more carefullly now, and there'd are far fewer of them. Maybe that's good, maybe it's because she gives in too easily because she lacks the energy and has no one to support her.
    It matters not the age .... we all question our "only parenting" and how to deal with their loss as well as our own.
    But FYI, you're doing a great job.

  6. I hear my grandkids say all the time they miss papa. The youngest is 6 months so she never got to know her grandpa. The others have fond memories. I can't really tell if they understand it much except for the oldest - she is 12 (11 at the time he died) which is the same age my daughter was when my dad died. She has the most memories and I know she misses him the most. What do you say. I find that as a Christian it is much easier because they know they will see him again one day and he is no longer suffering. One granddaughter who was almost 8 at the time said she was going gammy's house and not papa and gammy's house anymore. That hit me right in the heart. It is hard. Some days good - some days bad.

  7. Thank you for writing about this. I know the day will come for Nuriel...