The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, May 19, 2008


How Do I Tell My Child?

Last night was Mimi’s big ballet performance at the Civic Center. She was a cowgirl who carried a bucket. A spear, a bucket -- a kid has to start somewhere.

She was excited because she would get to take a bow at the end, awash in audience applause. When she was in “The Nutcracker” in December, for some reason, children in the first act were not allowed to take a bow at the end. She felt gypped. This time, she would feel the love.

My husband, John, and myself, sat in the audience, watching each group of dancers. Every so often I would put my hand on his knee and ask if he was alright. He said yes. I watched, but my thoughts were elsewhere. Jay, our son, had already been told.

How would I inform Mimi?

I had been playing telephone tag with my sister, who is a psychologist, to learn the best way to talk to our six-year old. I wanted to do this right. The ramifications could be devastating.

I watched her “Rodeo” performance from beginning ballet to advanced seniors. The dancing and music sometimes lifted my mood, but just as often the music faded from one score to another, and so, too, did my spirits.

It was all so sad. So surreal. So unexpected.

We stayed through the second half watching the junior hip hop team dance to “Good Vibrations,” a combo jazz/tap performance of all “All Shook Up,” which morphed into “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and ended with five fathers all dressed as The King.

We left at intermission. Elvis, of course, was still in the house.

On the ride home I thought, ‘What do I say to Mimi?’ while out loud I bellowed, “YOU REALLY ROCKED! You were a star. And you’re dancing, girlfriend -- you were awesome and we are so PROUD of you!” My words overcompensating for the very different ones I would soon say.

Mimi’s pigtails moved up and down, as she smiled and wiggled her shoulders.

In the house I took Mimi by the hand and said we needed to talk. “Am I getting a time-out again?” she asked, fear flooding her face.

“No, no, this, this isn’t about that.” I sat in the rocking chair. The one I used to breastfeed her in when she was a baby. “Come sit in my lap.”

She sat and played with my fingers. I turned her face so we were looking into each others’ eyes.

“I have some bad news, sweetie. "You know your Uncle Dave?”

She nodded.

“Baby, Uncle David died this morning.”

“That’s surprising,” she said. Her words stunned me. The were so – adult. Her gestures were not. She curled into the fetal position in my lap, laid her head under my neck and said, “I’m really going to miss Uncle Dave. He was a really nice man.”

“He was the nicest man. He truly was.”

“Where is he? If he’s dead.”

Whew, boy! The big questions. Well, we’ve talked about death a lot in my family, since it’s happened so often. I didn’t expect it in my husband’s. I didn’t anticipate my niece calling at 12:05 that morning to tell me that her father had a sudden heart attack. When the phone rang that late – I knew someone had died. I call them the death night calls. This is at least the fourth one I’ve received. Still, I never thought it would be David.

“Is Daddy sad that his brother died?”

“Daddy’s sad. We’re all sad, baby. But Uncle Dave is in heaven and Uncle Dave is always around us whenever you need him. Always remember that. Just like Grandma Rae is always around.”

“Maybe they’ll be together," she said hopefully.

“May-be,” I said, kind of hoping not, ‘Perhaps it’s better if he gets used to his new surroundings first,' I thought. 'Mom can be a little overwhelming.’

We hugged for awhile, and then Mimi slipped out of my arms. In the living room, Mimi was sitting next to her brother, their shoulders touching, she practically in his lap, both deep in concentration, playing Game boy. My husband was outside watering the plants. I watched them and thought of David. Gregarious, sweet, menschy David. I wanted to cry and went downstairs, not wanting the rest of the family to hear me.

We all mourn in different ways.

By Dawn Yun


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this was moving. the image that stays with me most is of you and your husband sitting through your daughter's performance, silent, trying to be in the present while your thoughts fought to be elsewhere. that seems to be the push-pull of grieving.
That was beautiful and moving. I think you handled it wonderfully.
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