Jonah has had some trouble, lately, with the idea that he will grow up. We've had many a conversation that ends with him insisting that he will be living with me, always. He has also been very upset at the idea of falling in love with a girl, and insists that he will only ever love me. That doens't entirely make me sad.
Last night, after I got done running, I came in and, as I had promised him before I left, I went into his room to rub his back. He was still awake, just a little and somehow he started talking about death.
Jonah: Mom, I don't want to be at a funeral.
Me: Do you mean you don't want to go to a funeral, or do you mean you don't want to die?
Jonah: I don't want to die.
Me: Well, I don't think you'll have to worry about that for a long time.
Jonah: I don't want you to die either.
Me: Well, I probably won't die for a long time, Jonah, but everybody dies someday.
Jonah: Like Mr. Don? (Don Vinzant was a minister at our church. He died over a year ago, but Jonah still remembers him)
Me: Yes, like Mr. Don. But Mr. Don was much older than me.
Jonah: Gran is getting old. I don't want Gran to die (Sorry Mom).
Me: Well, I don't think Gran is going to die soon either.
Jonah: If Gran died, I would be so sad.
Me: Me too, Baby.
Jonah: I don't want them to put my body in the ground after I die.
Me: Well, after you die, they don't have to put your body in the ground, but you won't really care anymore, even if they do. You won't be in your body.
Jonah: Where will I be?
Me: Well, you know how Daddy says that things don't last forever? Your body is one of those things. Your body will get worn out one day, and then your spirit will leave your body and go be with God.
Jonah: My spirit?
Me: Your spirit is the part that makes you, you. It's the part that makes your body alive. It won't ever die, even though your body won't last.
Jonah: And I can be with God?
Jonah: And you and Daddy will be there?
It was about that point that his eyes closed and he went to sleep. There I was, standing hot and sweaty, and I found myself loving that little boy so much more than I had just a few minutes earlier. It's amazing, his capacity to feel things. For all of his rough-and-tumble, superhero-loving ways, he's amazingly sensitive and thoughtful.
After I wrote that, I heard Caroline coughing, so I checked on her. She's had a cold and it seems to be hanging around. Then Sadie woke up. She's teething. So I gave her some Tylenol and I rocked her. I haven't been able to rock her the way I rocked the other two. I would hold Jonah for hours on end, but with each baby that time has been shortened. There are too many chubby little hands grasping for my time. But tonight everyone is sleeping, so I rocked her. She threw her Bunny across her face and snuggled up against me with her thumb in her mouth, and I rocked. It's 11:30 at night and I need to be grading papers or sleeping or emptying the dishwasher or... whatever. I rocked her. I smelled her baby smell, lingering on her hands and in her hair and I rocked.
My job is to prepare these little people to be big people and live in this world, and in the next. I am teaching Caroline to go to the potty (Something I'm sure her future bosses will thank me for), and Sadie to sit at the table during meals, and I am teaching Jonah to accept the inevitability of death.
These lessons aren't all simple or easy.
Truth be told, I'd prefer that they all be as simple as teaching Jonah to ride with his training wheels, or teaching Caroline to put her own diaper in the trash. Even getting Sadie to put herself back to sleep wasn't so hard. I am afraid of breaking my child's heart again, the way Jonah's broke when I explained that he might fall in love with a girl, and she might hurt him. He cried at the very idea that I would let someone make him sad. We sat in the drive-through line at Chick-fil-a, waiting for our nuggets and chocolate milk, and he told me that he didn't want anyone to ever break his heart.
My sweet little boy... How do I explain to him that I can't fix everything? I can't keep his Gran from dying, or some girl form breaking his heart, even if I wanted to.
This is the end of a magical time for him: the time when your parents can fix anything with an Angry Birds Band-aid and a kiss.