Monday, May 16, 2011

How to Work Through Bad News with Your Child

We received an email from Spence's first grade teacher outlining the activities for the last week and a half of school. The email ended with this:
"Finally, it is with deepest sorrow that I have to tell you that Tiny passed away sometime during these past few days. He parted peacefully in his little blue home. He was found by Ms. B, Mr. B, and SeƱora C at 3:35 on Monday, May 16. The funeral was held immediately to help preserve the odor of the classroom. Tiny was a great hamster, and a beloved member of Ms. B's first grade classroom. His remaining family includes Ms. B, F.B., J.B., K.B-R., K.B., P.C., S.E., B.I., T.H., Spencer Johnson, M.M., G.S., and E.W."
It was a cute, little, obituary-type way of telling us that the class hamster had died. My initial reaction was joy that it had waited until after we kept him to die. Then I thought I had better talk to Spence and see how he felt about it.

We sat down to dinner and I said, "Hey. I'm sorry Tiny died."

Spencer said, "Tiny didn't die."

My mind quickly replayed the email I had just read and I realized that it said, "He was found... at 3:35 on Monday, May 16." Then my mind yelled at me, "It is Monday, May 16!" And, then my mind shrieked at me, "You picked Spence up from school at 3:00! He. doesn't. know. yet!"

Ummm... Well... Son? I have something to tell you.

Thankfully, he wasn't too concerned. Maybe because Tiny was a biter. Maybe because he was more fascinated by the fact that dead things stink. Maybe because he had been prepared for this inevitability beforehand - he said, "Eh. Hamsters don't usually live more than a year." I don't know who gave him this shortened hamster life-expectancy, but if it was Ms. B, God bless her.

But, wait a minute... It's awfully convenient that Ms. B doesn't have to find anyone to take custody of the hamster over the summer now. It's almost like she knew Tiny's life expectance wasn't more than a year...


R.I.P. Tiny.


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