Kanin turns five in a few short weeks and the last six plus months have been extremely difficult for him. With Josh geo-baching and then subsequently going underway for a couple of months —while in a new location— has taken a toll on him. Everyday since Josh went to Groton, Connecticut, Kanin has told me he misses his daddy; every single day. It’s progressed into, “daddy is taking forever to get here” and “I miss my daddy so much”. Hearing him say those things and things like it have broken my heart.
Josh and I knew that this decision was going to be extremely hard on him more than the both of us. Part of me envies Josh for not having to be physically here to see the heartache he’s endured. Thankfully the end is in sight and Kanin will once again get to see, snuggle and play with his daddy. Thankfully! But that is only one part of his current grief and I think this next part is more heart-rending because of the current sadness about Josh.
Recently we stayed with my sister (more on that in a different post) and she had a friend pass away. Kanin and his cousin heard about it and have been talking to each other. They’re both four and kids talk. They don’t have filters and kids correlate things you wouldn’t consider. Apparently the boys have been talking about Aerilyn and the fact that she died.
Both Kanin and his cousin met Aerilyn; they saw her and were both told that she had passed away. Both boys have mentioned her before, but nothing in-depth but more in passing. Kanin, being her brother, has mostly talked about wanting another sibling and that Aerilyn was “pretty cool” in his words. Her death never really hit him like it did us, which makes sense, he was three.
That’s all changed and it makes me feel like a terrible mother to have not noticed. See, my sister brought to my attention that her son mentioned that they have been talking about Aerilyn and how Kanin misses her. That day I left with Kanin to my mother’s and asked if he talked about Aerilyn to his cousin. He told me no and I reassured him he wouldn’t be in trouble and that it’s okay if he was. He still said no. After we left my mom’s, I asked again. Once again he told me no.
Once we got home, we got ready for bed, read his story and everything. Soon as I put the book back, he breaks down. And I’m not talking about small tears, no, he was sobbing. I asked him what’s wrong and he dives into how much he misses Aerilyn and wants her home. How he doesn’t understand why she couldn’t come home with us and why did she die. My heart broke. This little four year old who’s so vocal about missing his dad, kept his mouth shut to me about Aerilyn for who knows how long. Que my own bawling session with him.
Before I go on, I need to tell you what was told to him when Aerilyn died. I told him nothing, I couldn’t handle that. Josh and a professional social worker who works at the hospital told him. They told him she died and she cannot come home with us. He did great, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he didn’t look at her like she wasn’t whole. He looked at her like she was his baby sister. That she was perfect. He asked to see her belly button, to touch her nose to kiss her. Kanin did all the normal sibling things when they meet their new sister or brother for the first time. It was the best outcome for us, considering the situation.
Fast forward to that night, and he was asking all the questions I’ve feared from day one. He talked about how he didn’t like how he didn’t have her to play with. And how he wanted to snuggle with Aerilyn and play with her. Explaining to a four year old about death is one of the worst things I’ve done. He kept asking why. Why about everything. Why couldn’t she come home? Why didn’t she live? Why doesn’t he get to play with her? Why why why? It was devastating to hear all this from a tiny broken voice filled with tears and sniffles.
Ultimately I explained about how her neural tube didn’t close on the top. I used his hand as an example so he could physically see. I explained that if his pinky finger was the tube, that the tip didn’t form so the rest of his fingers didn’t form and he’d only have the palm of his hand. He asked the typical small child questions of where the tube was and what caused it not to close. I gave him my most honest answer of, “I don’t know and no one does. It just happens”. Then he asked if there was anything else wrong with her. I told him no, that she was perfect. Which sparked the “why did she die then” question? I told him his big brain (which in sighted giggles) sends signals to his body, like his hand, to do things. His brain is what tells him to pick up his fork, or to pick his nose. More giggles. Which lead me to telling him that Aerilyn’s brain couldn’t send any signals to her heart —which he knows pumps blood and keeps us alive— and lungs, and because those two things couldn’t work properly she couldn’t survive. He was happy to know that little fact. Not sure why, but it pleased him. I can speculate why, which ultimately could be that he can physically feel his heart and feel his lungs fill up. So he knows he’s not dead. That might be a bit much to put on a four year old though.
After our hour long sob fest about Aerilyn, he asked to sleep with something of hers and read her book. So he got another story and a bunny my mom had given her, to curl up with. The next morning he instantly asked me if we could talk about Aerilyn. I, of course, said yes. Which prompted almost the same conversation we had the night before. Every day since that night, he’s asked to talk about her and is ecstatic to do so. And because I was attached to that bunny, we agreed to get him his own Aerilyn lovey. He picked out a doll, we dressed her in butterflies, she has a ring necklace like us and currently has a bow on her head, even though he wants her to have a hat. So I plan on knitting one if I can, or finding one for her. He’s so happy he has his Aerilyn doll. Now he says he misses his daddy and his Aerilyn. It’s simultaneously adorable and heart wrenching.
This situation just proves that kids process things at different rates. That even when they seem fine, they might not be. I feel bad because I had no idea. It took another little kid telling his mom for me to find out. It’s not like we never talk about her, but for now I plan to integrate her even more than before. Not only for my sake, but for his.
I’m glad that his separation from Josh is coming to an end. That little boy doesn’t deserve to be so sad about such adult things. But until they’re reunited and he has one less thing to be sad about, he has his daddy doll, his Aerilyn doll and endless reassurance that even though Aerilyn can’t come home, she’ll forever be in his heart and his dad is indeed coming home.