Last week, the three of us -- Noah, Lila and myself -- went to the supermarket. Lila, admittedly because she was hungry, freaked out and had the first tantrum she’s had in as long as I can remember. We left.
Soon after, Lila turned to me and asked, “Where’s Susanna?”
Susanna is her little toy cat. She got it in a Cajita Feliz at McDonalds a few weeks earlier and they two fell in love with eqch other. Lila tucked Susanna in bed at night, took her to school, carried her in the car and everywhere else she went in her little llama handbag.
We went back to the store to search. Went back again this weekend, but Susanna was no where to be found.
She is gone, probably forever.
Lila has lots of questions, of course. What happened to her? Where did she go? Did someone else take her? Will I ever get her back?
I don't have answers to any of these questions.
Then comes the question for which I do have an answer. In fact, as the parent, I entirely control the outcome. “Can we go back to McDonalds to get another Susanna?”
One the one hand: It’s Lila’s responsibility to take care of the toys she chooses to bring with her to the supermarket or wherever we go. Normally, she doesn’t lose them and is very good at keeping track. Her tantrum, I'm sure, has a lot to do with why Susanna was lost. She was too busy screaming to realize her beloved cat fell out of her bag.
Wouldn't buying a new one be in some ways, allowing her avoid responsibility for her actions? Would we in some way be saying tantrums are acceptable?
Beyond that, loss is a part of life, and not everything is replaceable. In fact, the most important things in life are not. Would we be doing Lila a huge disservice in quickly ending her sadness with another toy. This time, it’s easy. Next time, it may not be so simple.
Noah and I generally choose not to shield Lila from subjects such as death. We do our best to be honest when explaining what happened to our cat Paloma, or Grandma Ruth or why Daddy is sad when we visit Noah's mother in the cemetary.
What do you think?
Photo courtesy of Hitchster's Flickrstream