Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen after putting the boys to bed. Sam was up to his usual stalling tactics.
“I need more water.”
“Please put my blanket back on.”
“Can I have a book.”
Matt was in there for the third time and as I turned off the water in the sink I heard Sam asking about Grandma Linda and where she was.
We’ve talked about her with the boys just like we talk about their other grandparents. We tell them how much she loves them and we talk about things she gave us and show them pictures. I’ve always wanted them to “know” her as best they can and promised myself that from the day they were born they would know her love for them.
But three-year olds are inquisitive and curious and are really starting to put the world together. It’s truly and awesome thing to watch. They don’t just accept the answers you give anymore, they want to make sense of them in relation to what they know to be true.
So last night Matt used our standard answers. “Grandma Linda’s in Heaven. Grandma Linda watches you from Heaven even though you can’t see her. Grandma Linda loves you very much.”
Usually Sam accepts those answers and moves onto his next line of questions. But last night the questions didn’t stop.
“Is she at her house in heaven? Can I go see her house? Can I go to Heaven too? Where is heaven?”
Matt was lost for answers and from my perch at the kitchen sink the questions broke my heart. It’s not fair that we need to explain Heaven to a three-year old.
But the reality is we do. And I’m stepping into territory that I’m not sure how to navigate. What is the right way to approach this with a toddler? How do you balance helping him understand and protecting him from things his tiny little brain and heart should not have to know yet. And how to I steel myself against these questions that can come out of nowhere and knock the wind out of me?
Matt and I have decided a few things – we should answer the boys questions with age appropriate information but truthfully, we want the boys to value communication and feel like we will always be honest with them. And we believe that starts from the very first questions they ask. We also want them to not be scared of Heaven.
Until now, I have trusted my educated intuition to make parenting decisions but my intuition isn’t providing me any clarity on this one. How do you explain Heaven to a three-year old?