Two Sister Time

The little girl looked intently into my eyes, two lines of concern creasing the space between her eyes. There was an uncharacteristically serious look on her face for a four-year-old. Her next words sent me reeling.

“I know Max’s sister died.”

“Taken aback” seems a pitiful way to describe the feelings competing for attention in my mind and heart at that moment. I was caught flat-footed. A comment of that nature was completely unexpected during Max’s school pick-up.

Not that this was a foreign experience. Max’s age group is notoriously blunt and curious. His young friends ask questions like this not infrequently, not realizing it is rude or potentially hurtful. I know this and always answer their questions calmly and with my best age-appropriate honesty. Previously, though, the questions came from his friends in our play group, who are also my friends’ children. I expected them from that group, because they knew Lucy her entire life. I did not expect them from children who knew us only a few months before Lucy died. No one at Max’s school has mentioned her all year. I thought many of them must not know or they didn’t realize we were the family that lost a child.

This particular little girl was in Max’s class when Lucy died. Another former classmate recently yelled out during pickup that she remembered Max. So, that was what I was expecting during that sunny school pick-up from this little girl.

This thought flitted through my head, “Um, yeah, I do, too. I’m their mother. Duh.”

I floundered, stuttered, and finally said, “Well, that’s good!” I immediately felt like an idiot. I couldn’t have said, “Thank you for telling me” or “Thank you for remembering her”? The little girl looked confused. I was, too. I felt a bit angry that her parents hadn’t told her a comment like that was inappropriate. I wondered if they did tell her and she just didn’t listen or forgot. I worried that the little girl thought I was angry with her. I wondered why the heck she said something like that and where the hell her caregiver was. Maybe she was trying to show sympathy or she was curious. Perhaps she felt grown-up in bringing up such a topic. More likely, she was just blurting something she knew randomly in order to show she knows things, as four-year-olds do.

“When did it happen?”

The next question came at me before I caught my breath from the first one. I said “Last May” and tried to smile as I busied myself helping Max with his backpack. Max saved me from more questions.

“But we’re making a new sister right now!”

I jumped on the new topic gratefully, “Yes! There will be a new sister this summer, won’t there? And then you will be such a lucky boy. You will have two sisters!”

Max jumped up and down, yelling, “It will be two sister time! Two sister time!”

The little girl gave us another confused look, as if our response was disappointing to her. Then, she moved off and we left.

Perhaps she does not understand how Max will still have two sisters. He seems to, though, and that is what matters.

A few days later, the same little girl called after us as we left school, “Tell your mom I hope she has a good baby soon!” 🙂

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2 Comments

  1. Jerry said,

    April 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    LOVE U SIS. The little girl prolly just. doesnt understand about. a sibling passing away. Her parents need to teach her some manners

  2. May 10, 2014 at 9:13 am

    That could’ve been my child and they wouldn’t have said it because they weren’t taught manners but because kids acknowledge things that adults are afraid to. If her parents had acknowledged that Lucy died when it happened, if they hadn’t been afraid to say something, their little girl’s comment may not have caught you so off guard. It’s a lesson to all of us to stand side by side with people in their grief, even if they’re strangers. It’s much easier to do that than to try to censor what a child says.


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