My brave, sensitive, inquisitive, little (big) girl wept yesterday. We were enjoying a peanut butter sandwich snack while Shira napped, and we got talking about her name, and how we chose it. Here is how things got started:
Alyce: Mama, why did you name me Alyce?
Me: We named you after your great-grandmother, who is one of my favourite people in the entire world. Her name is Mary Alyce, and your name is Alyce Mary.
Alyce: Why did you name her Mary Alyce?
Me: I didn't name her. Her mama named her.
Alyce: Where is her mama?
Have you already figured out where this is going?
Me: (Instantly panicking. Unprepared. Hoping a giant Disney princess waltzes into the room on a unicorn.) Her mama isn't with us anymore. She died a long time ago.
Alyce: Why did she die?
Me: She got very, very, very old and her body stopped working. That's what happens when a person gets very, very, very old.
Alyce: (Pauses.) Am I going to die when I get very old?
Me: (Please kill me.) Everyone will die one day. But that won't happen for a very long time.
Alyce: (Instantly weeping.) But then I won't be with you!
Her little face crumbled into pieces. She jumped into my arms and wept. Then I started crying. Then she wept some more. I spent those minutes with my daughter as she came to realize a terrible truth. For the first time her curious mind brought her to a place where I couldn't protect her. I can't lie to her, not about this. I think it's my job to shelter her from many things in the world (slutty tween clothes) and I will stand guard against anyone who wants to hurt her (bullies), but the knowledge that people grow old and die, this I can't stop. This kind of truth is hard, but she deserves it.
She cried for awhile in my arms before she calmed down enough to ask me a few more questions. When I die will I be able to stand up again? Will I be able to talk to you? I explained to her that there was something inside her that would never die. Sometimes we read a traditional Jewish story about how an angel picked out her soul down from the Treasury of Souls and brought it down to grow inside me, along with the seeds from me and her Papa. It's a magical story, one she has always loved. So I tried to talk to her about how she still has that soul, and that I have one, too. And Papa and Shira. I explained, badly, that our souls would stay together forever. She seemed to like that answer, and we went back to our snack, just like that.
At least she probably won't ask me any other difficult questions.
What? Oh, crap.