Despite the fact that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy visit our house, I'm a HUGE believer in telling my kids the truth...always! (I think those childhood characters transcend "truth" and can be a fun part of growing up.) But telling the truth isn't always easy.
Navigating how to tell Dolly and Dude why Pumpkin is gone was something we thought through quite a bit. It was important for me to tell the truth. But I really didn't want to focus on the "mommy" side of things too much. Yes, Dude and Dolly are eventually going to deal with the harsh reality that they aren't going to see their mommy. But I don't need to rub it in their faces that Pumpkin was going home to hers.
I didn't want to simply say that Pumpkin is "bye bye". Honestly, that's how we describe where their mommy is. Several times a day (though it is less frequently now) they ask, "Mommy bye bye?" I respond, "Yes, Mommy is bye bye. That's sad. But Mamma L*** will take care of you."
I didn't want to say that Pumpkin went "home" either. Just yesterday, as we pulled into the driveway, Dude looked out the window and said, "My home". It made me feel good to know that he feels like he belongs here now. But I'm sure it would be confusing to Dude and Dolly if this is what they know as home and I tell them that Pumpkin went home.
So, I enlisted the help of my genius sister. I felt like I was damned if I do...damned if I don't. I explained to her the dilemma. And, like always, she was pure genius.
She asked what town Pumpkin was moving to. And while this will mean very little to Dude and Dolly, it gives me a concrete way to explain where Pumpkin has gone to. I'm not going to lie -- I have told them that Pumpkin is with her mommy. But then I put the focus on, "Pumpkin went to her home in S**J***." Bye focusing on the town, it draws the emphasis away from mommy and home in general.
This explanation has worked so far. They seem satisfied with the answer. And while they have confirmed that Pumpkin is indeed with her mommy, and that they are not...they seem OK.
I did a couple more things right away to help them understand that Pumpkin is gone for good. I took the sheets off Pumpkin's bed last night. Then I took the set of drawers that housed Pumpkin's clothes and moved Dolly's clothes into them.
They have been fine all day. Part of me was really worried that this transition would upset them. It's not like they were Pumpkin's best friends...but Dolly did play with Pumpkin quite a bit. (Read that as Dolly would sit Pumpkin down and make her be the patient and Dolly the doctor. Or Dolly would lead Pumpkin over to the art table and make her color. Or Dolly would set up all the dolls around Pumpkin and tell Pumpkin how to play house. Pumpkin didn't do much but she almost always cooperated with Dolly. In fact, even her speech therapist noticed a difference and improvement with Pumpkin's ability to "play" after Dude and Dolly arrived.) It is a pretty big change when someone you shared a room with is suddenly gone. But they are doing OK.
As for me, I looked up a couple times expecting to see Pumpkin walking around the corner. And I did a little mental happy dance at 6:30 when I remembered that I wasn't going to have to prepare all the medications. And then I prayed a prayer for Pumpkin's mom hoping that she was getting those meds ready herself.