Kids frequently substitute familiar words for words they don’t know, with amusing results.
A couple of memorable examples from our home:

Zeke has been under the impression, for some time now, that the game kids play, where everybody hides and someone has to try and find them, (you know the one), is called Hide and Zeke.  Every time this classic children’s pastime comes up, he mishears it this way and I am thoroughly tickled anew. I am in no hurry to correct him.

Zeke has a favorite book by William Steig, called Zeke Pippen.  In it, a pig named Zeke finds a magic harmonica in the street, leading to exciting misadventures.  We’ve read this book countless times without any apparent misapprehensions, but one afternoon, after reading a sentence, that is non-essential plot-wise, about Zeke (the pig) cleaning his harmonica with his father’s schnapps, Zeke (the boy) stopped me, confusion all over his face.

“Mom,” he said. “How could Zeke Pippen clean his harmonica with his father’s snots?”

I could see from his perplexed look how completely boggled this had him and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. (I mean the concept of someone using their father’s snots as a disinfectant is preposterously disgusting! It’s no wonder my boy was at a loss!)

This sort of misconception is one of the precious gems of parenthood.  They are amusing, repeatable moments handed to you here and there, providing breaks of utter amused delight amidst all of the usual chaos and poop.
Some misconceptions, however, take you completely by surprise and leave you struggling to find your bearings….

We were in line at K-dog, our neighborhood coffee shop.  Jack was asleep in the stroller, Zeke fidgeting at my side, when he says to me, completely out of the blue,

“Mommy? Is Stanley all wet?”

Stanley.  He was our first baby, a mischievous Lab mix, that Aaron and I adopted in college.  He was 12 when Zeke was born, and not terribly interested in or pleased with the new addition to our family.
Zeke, however, loved him unconditionally.  He endlessly attempted to lure Stanley into games, frequently threw his arms around Stanley’s broad neck in an enthusiastic toddler embrace, and collapsed in giggles whenever Stanley covered his face in slobbery kisses.

In a show of spectacularly unfortunate timing, Stanley became very ill and needed to be put to sleep just days after Jack came home from the hospital.  The combination of elated joy at the birth of our new son and extreme bereavement at the loss of our sweet companion, left Aaron and I simultaneously fragile and numb.  On the same Thursday morning, I took Jack and Zeke to Jack’s very first check-up, and Aaron carried Stanley, wrapped in an old green towel, to his last.
I will never forget the note of confusion in Zeke’s voice when we arrived at home after the check-up, as he called out to his dog,


It was the first time in his brief life that he hadn’t been greeted immediately by the click-click-click of Stanley’s claws on our hardwood floors.  That confused anticipation left me cold for weeks, until eventually Zeke stopped looking for his dog.  It was so hard. Though I knew full well that Stanley was no longer with us, part of me was expecting to hear him there too.

At some point we told Zeke that Stanley died and that he wouldn’t be coming back. Zeke never questioned this, so we considered the matter pretty much closed.  Though every so often there would be a question:

“Mommy? Is Stanley all wet?”

No one wants to be confronted unexpectedly with emotion, not in public, not before you’ve had your coffee.  And completely at a loss for what exactly my son was talking about, bargaining for time, I asked him to repeat himself, though he’d spoken quite clearly.

“Is he all covered in bubbles Mommy? Can we get a boat and go get him and bring him home?”

I’m sure my voice shook a little bit as I asked, in a false overly cheerful voice, “What are you talking about honey?”

“From when he dived Mama.  Is he all wet?  Could we get a boat and bring him home?
Would that be a good idea?”

Tears welled in my eyes. I was overwhelmed.  The realization that all this time, my little boy had imagined his beloved dog swimming around in the water somewhere.  It was too much.

“No sweetie,” I said, my voice virtually a whisper. ” I think he’s having a really good time where he is.”

My mind whirled.  Did I owe him a more concrete explanation?  Was it my responsibility as a parent to be honest with him? No, I finally decided.

Three is just way too young to find out that
death is no day at the beach.


7 responses

  1. Jane

    Such a sad yet beautiful story, very well told.

    January 23, 2011 at 11:31 am

  2. Thanks Jane!

    January 25, 2011 at 9:30 am

  3. Sarah

    Wow, this is making me cry. Beautifully told Amanda! And beautiful artwork Molly!

    January 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

  4. Thanks, Amanda, for bringing me ‘way back to when my own children were that age, but not living in a big city. They were a little older when our first pet death occurred, and we had a funeral, with candle and flowers. They still remember that, and where Frisky’s grave is, in a state now 8 hr. away. They were also in grammar school. Your story about Stanley brought tears to my eyes, we having just lost Becky. I appreciate sharing your adventures, and your intuitive bonding with your child’s perceptions. The really magical element in this is how well you communicate all this, bringing us in! Blessings!

    October 11, 2011 at 8:57 am

    • mamadestroy

      Wow! Thank you so much Judy! Your lovely tribute to Becky also brought a tear to my eye. Be Well and thanks for reading.

      October 11, 2011 at 9:44 am

  5. It doesn’t fail to make me cry whenever I read stuffs like this. I panic a lot whenever my dogs get sick. I lost three dogs already, one from an accident and two from a disease. And I always cry losing them. I did try my best to save the last one from her disease. Even my family told me not spend money for such thing. They just don’t understand me.

    April 18, 2012 at 11:37 am

    • ***edit***
      Even though my family told me not to spend money for such thing.

      April 18, 2012 at 11:39 am

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