Last night at dinner, Zoe says, "Did you know M's parents are getting a divorce?" M is a school friend, and yes, I knew. "Why do people get divorced," Zoe asks. I explain the best I can and finish up by saying, "Getting a divorce is a grown-up problem, and it doesn't have anything to do with what kids do. Even though M's parents are getting divorced, they still love her and will always be her parents." Zoe immediately made the connection: "Like my birth parents couldn't keep me for grown-up reasons but they're still my parents." Right! And here I thought we WEREN'T talking about adoption!
Then this morning, after dropping Zoe at school, I'm driving Maya to school. She's talking about "Bambi," the book she decided to take to school for her teacher to read (My kids laugh at me because I won't watch "Bambi" or read the book because it makes me cry! The little savages.). We veer between Bambi's mother's death, to Little Foot in the "Land Before Time," whose mother dies, "but his grandparents take care of him." I'm kind of gearing up for a "what if YOU die" question that never comes.
Instead, Maya asks, "What if we get a divorce?"
"I'm not married, sweetie, so there isn't any divorce," I say.
"NO! WHAT IF??? [Maya hates it when I fight the hypothetical -- you'd think I'd be more sympathetic about it, since I hate it when my students fight the hypothetical!] One conversation I distinctly recall -- "What if God was dead?" she asks. I respond, "But God isn't dead." Immediate response from Maya: "NO! WHAT IF????" I'm trying to figure out a response to that theological/metaphysical conundrum when Zoe, thankfully, answers for me: "Jesus would be very sad because God is his father." Whew, that satisfies Maya, so I dodged a bullet that time!]
Maybe I can get away with a clarifying question: "What if WHO gets a divorce -- you and me?"
"YES! What if we get a divorce?"
Ohhhhhh! Now I think I know what this is about. "Moms and kids don't get a divorce! I'm your mama forever and you're my daughter forever."
Next question: "Will we always love?" Shoot, I did say maybe people get a divorce because they don't love each other any more.
"Oh, yes," I say. "I will always love you forever and ever. Even if I'm mad, even if I'm sad, I'll always love you (these are familiar words to her, I always say them when they've gotten into trouble somehow!)" By this time we're at school, so I tickle her and say, "You can't get rid of me that easily -- I'm yours forever and you're mine forever. You're STUCK with me, so there!" She laughs and laughs, and into school we go. She happily settles in for the day, and barely glances back at me as she waves goodbye, our special wave with a sign-language "I love you."
See, it's not just hard stuff like adoption we talk about. Sometimes we talk about divorce and the death of God. ARRRRGGGHHHHH!