What to say today... I guess my youngest is on my mind. I am constantly wondering how she is doing, what she is thinking, should I get her help or will it just make it worst? This was not on my priority of things to teach a three year old:
Introducing Yourself and Greeting Others
Holding Hands in Parking Lots and Crossings
Good and Bad Strangers
and oh yah, Death.
We'd been working on God and Jesus, and I was putting off the Holy Spirit (looking for some ideas on that one still). I was teaching her to pray.
Dear Heavenly Father in Heaven
Then we added the thank you part. To a toddler this was a wonderful hodge podge of ideas. It started out thank you for everything you have given us, we love you very much. She was thankful at different and concurrent times for Mommy, Sleeping Beauty, Daddy, Perry/ Baby, Elmo, Abby, Sally, Shroeder, Cinderella, Marcy Sally, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Mike, and Aunt LAWRA.
Then we moved on to please forgive me for: having an accident in the bed, spilling my drink, being mean to the dogs. I often had to explain that she didn't have to apologize for things she didn't mean to do (how different than us as adults who look for excuses to not face our sins for what they are).
Next came the requests: Please keep X, Y, Z safe. Our names rolled through this, and keep Mom safe at work was a big priority to her.
We love you very much in Jesus's (or your name) we pray,
These days she is thankful for Perry and we ask him to say we love him, hello, watch over, or hold baby. These days we try to ask for safety, but I think we are both a bit shaky in this regard. Our prayers weren't answered once... it is hard at times to pray. Afterwards, she lays curled up in my arms with my lips brushing her hair and we often cry, somedays just me and other days Emily. She says "I want Baby back" if she crys, and when I cry "We all miss Perry." Then she'll get quiet. She asks if there are bottles in Heaven, and gets very upset when people suggest that maybe he has a grown up body now... "No, Perry is a Baby!!!". She goes through the list of people who hold baby (GG and Grampa Hatton), and believes Andy the Pug sits next to him like he used to with her, just happy to have his body in contact with her. Andy was never overbearing, just sat next tro her on the floor in quiet companionship, happy. She wasn't much older than Perry when he died, but she stuck on this idea. This is what Heaven is like to her, and I have to admit it really doesn't sound all that bad.
Sometimes I think that in Heaven, with eternity stretching before, time has a different meaning. To Perry is it just a blink of the eye after watching new colors and lights before we are with him? I often think, if given a choice to have him alive and still grow up, but with a different family who would teach him to know God, would I do it? And the answer is yes. Then that voice whispers "What better parent than God?". I cry out angrily at God for taking him and not giving him back to me, and the answer is "I will but not in your time." I am not sure if I am crazy and grieving, and I want to believe these things, but sometimes my heart quiets and the pain isn't there for a moment. I have angry prayers with God these days when it is just me and Him, but far from a lightning bolt hitting me, I feel like it is ok to do this...
But back to Emily.
She has been getting excited for Christmas. She thrilled at the Brentwood City Tree, and excitedly shows me Christmas presents. We talk about how the presents are in honor of the baby Jesus, but she still asks about Santa and the North Pole. Last shift while I was at work she was watching the Polar Express. My husband said she started sobbing and when Chris asked her why, she said "Perry won't get to open his Christmas presents". Chris told me this story and it struck me two different ways. The first was that the only time I have seen this Movie was at the YMCA when I was pregnant with Perry. I had had two miscarriages, and I was just off the truck and thankful to be entering the second trimester. I felt lighter watching this movie, he was my Christmas gift. It didn't make me sad at all to remember that part, I was happy. The Christmas lights were beautiful to me that year. The second was in a wave, my heart broke for her.
Today I got a call from Chris. Chris and Emily were in a minor accident on the way to surprise me at work, just outside Brentwood. At first he was going to get a friend to bring him to the station as I would be in night drills and he would take my car home. In the background I heard a frantic voice calling for me, the something wrong voice, and I knew I had to go.
It didn't take me long to get there, we were all back at the station in a short time. But when I arrived and I threaded my way back to the truck, I went inside and my heart stopped. She sat in her car seat quivering, her jaw and hands shaking. She wasn't cold, but I closed the cracked window and held her hands, moved the hair out of her face with a gentle finger as I tucked it behind her ear. She was frantic about the truck. I told her it was ok, as long as they were both ok. I took her to my vehicle, snapped her in the carseat. As she looked around, she asked about the lights. I explained that different colors mean different things and explained about blue being police and mostly red being fire. "Mommy," she said, "sometimes I am afraid of police."
This is a new one that has cropped up this month. Before she saw police as the friends of firefighters who kept Mommy safe from cars and bad people, and who Mommy would take care of in turn if they needed help. They were the few "Good Strangers" to go to if you needed help. One of her favorite friends is Kristen King, who is always ready to bribe with goldfish or ritz bitz in Thomas the train cups. She has seen Kristen in uniform.
It first came as we were riding in traffic and saw a police vehicle about a week ago. I had asked her why and she said "When Perry..." and couldn't finish it. So I knew now. The truck was just a focal point. Here was the first time she had been surrounded by police cars and ambulances since the day my Mom rushed to our house to take her away at the two sentance phone call. "Perry is dead. Emily needs you."
And I understood. The vehicles that had comforted me as part of my world at work (that I had taken Emily to see at her visits to Brentwood so she would not be afraid if she needed them), the Ambulances and Patrol Cars now had a different meaning for her. They have a different meaning to me too. I am not really sure why she focuses in on police officers, was there something about that day that struck her more? I don't know.
Once at the station, waiting for everyone to get back, Emily and I laid on the floor and played with puppets. She wanted to wait for my "firefighter friends" and she greeted them with excitement. Like a thirteen year old greeting Justin Beiber, they were superstars. Everything had been laid aside.
It is hard to know what to do. At what point do you take a child to counseling, one who grieves like a strange hybred of 3 and 9 years old/some adults according to the grieving charts? How do you find a counselor who is a Christian and specializes in childhood grief? Is there something else I should do? Would the counseling help or cripple her?
And I wondered, what do I teach her now?