The Truth About Cats and Gods
Well, the cat's dead. Was she the best cat ever? That is a childish question. And yes. Empirically. If you want, leave a comment and I'll email you the documentation. I'm not here to eulogize the cat though. That's over on Cat Fancy's dead cat of the month page.
The P-Nut turns 4 in April. She's getting pretty hip to what's going on. Including the fact that the cat--Xiu Xiu (zhu-zhu) the Eldest--had disappeared.
We had to have The Conversation.
I went through a lot of strategies in my head. Wait until she asks, then offer ice cream. Wait until she asks, then shout "Look over there!" and then run away. Make her watch a particularly brutal nature show and when it's over go, "There. That's what happened to Xiu-Xiu, understand?" Tell her she was cheating on us with a second family. Business trip. Called up by the Reserves. Time traveler.
When my wife was 6, her dog died. Her father didn't hesitate. He looked her right in the eye and said, "We sent the dog to live on a nice farm."
My wife figured out the truth like this: Pre our romantic life, she told me the story. I laughed. She said, "What?" I said, "You really think that old sick dog went to live on a farm?" "
"Oh my god." she said.
She was 28.
Then she laughed. There was no crying. No break down. No sudden realization that the world was a far darker and more horrible place than she had ever before imagined. Just a chagrined chuckle.
There is a dad website out there that has a very busy message board. It's the first place I went when I decided to be a professional homemaker. I found it very comforting, in most cases.
One very long thread dealt with the above subject. Not my wife's adorable innocence.
"What do you tell your child when the family pet dies?"
It was filled with post after post of righteous proclamations of "The Truth."
"Tell them the truth!"
Most times, the truth consisted of a vehement, "We never, ever, ever, ever lie to our child (bullshit)," followed by a story like, "Our cat/dog died of cancer. Our son is three and we told him the truth. The cat/dog is happy now because he's in heaven."
Which is great, if that's your truth. I have no problem with it.
It's not a truth for us. For us, that's pretty much the same as saying the cat went to live on a farm, except for the fact that farms exist.
There were the rare few tough love posts that said, "We told our daughter that the dog was dead and no longer existed and won't come back and she cried a little then handled it fine."
Kind of a copout. What does a three year old really understand about the finality of death? A three year old lives with the innate belief that they're the center of the universe, the axle upon which the whole of everything turns. Real egomaniacs, they are.
Expecting a three year old to grasp the concept of non-existence is naive at best.
In the end, we waited until the P-nut asked. We told her and she cried some. She talked about the cat for a few days. She's already asked for a new one.
We told her that Xiu-Xiu was sick and old and tired. That we took her to the doctor and that the doctor sent her to a special place that was quieter and less crazy than our house. It was a place where she could rest and be comfortable and not be sick anymore.
And where the truth is concerned, I think that's close enough.