Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. It seemed to make sense at the time.
Meena has started coming home with a rich variety of insults. Some are intended to be funny; references to “poo poo” figure prominently.
Some are intended to express extreme displeasure with whatever we have done to offend her. “You suck, lady!” was popular for a time. We had a talk with daycare about THAT one.
Today, it was a little darker. Today, she repeatedly told us how she was going to make us die. The accompanying laughter told us that this was also intended to be funny.
We have been dealing with the insults both in general terms (“does that sound like a nice thing to say?”) and in more specific terms as new ‘jokes’ move in to replace the old. For this one, the most logical approach seemed to be:
‘Die’ is not funny, it is sad. Do you know what it means to die? When someone dies, they are gone. Do you remember Zubey-doo? Zubey-doo died. That’s why he’s not with us anymore. And that makes me sad.
This gave her pause. Next came the stricken look on her face. And then the wailing:
“I miss Zubey-Doooooooooooooooooo!!!!”
Believe it or not, this took me completely off-guard. She has never grieved for Zube before. I was not intending to be harsh, this was not an exercise in ‘tough love’. At least it wasn’t supposed to be. Every once in a while she asks where the ‘other’ cat is. The ‘baby’ cat. I am touched that she even remembers. When we talk about him, we tell her that he died, and that this means he is gone, and won’t come back to us. She will occasionally tell me that she misses him, but has never exhibited any distress (and I try to keep my own distress to myself).
But not this time. This time, she was devastated. She wanted to know why he wasn’t coming back. She wanted to know how he died. As I rocked her in my lap and stroked her hair, I explained that he had a lump in his heart, and that that made it stop working properly. That the doctor couldn’t fix it.
She sat up and looked at me. “Doctors can fix people,” she told me confidently, “but they can’t fix cats.”
I left it there. That’s a conversation I don’t think either of us is ready for.