Nathan’s somewhat mournful post from earlier today (Coors really bums me out), about work and snow and parenting, reminded me of one of my few straightforwardly sincere posts on death (most of my thoughts on slipping the mortal coil are outrageously funny).
As I wrote earlier, one of the teachers in JP’s preschool passed away and the school had made the policy decision not to tell the children anything about it.
Because this is New York and the 21st century, a flurry of parent-email-list hand-wringing ensued. (I hereby decree that any future email sent to me that runs longer than two paragraphs be required to involve my winning the lottery, free Mets World Series tickets — in 2040 — or dirty pictures.) Most of it was critical of the school’s decision; child-psychology theories were advanced; poignant details about earlier death conversations were related in memoiristic detail; and generally the yadda-yadda-yadda flowed.
Then the kids started talking. Now, JP hasn’t breathed a word and, in fact, hasn’t yet seemed to notice that his teacher is gone, which is sad but kind of a relief, as I wasn’t all that keen on explaining the whole meaning-of-life thing to him just yet. But apparently, if the next round of tiresome emails was to be believed, some children got wind of it, questioned the parents, concepts were explained, and a few tears were shed.
Anyway, bottom line is now the school wants to tell the kids. They are bringing in a child psychologist to discuss it, which means God knows what, other than that now I will likely have to reckon with it, which isn’t so bad but still kind of sucks. I’m still not sure what’s better: to explain a difficult concept like this in the context of someone he wasn’t attached to, when the stakes or low, or when someone he truly cares about passes away. No easy answers.