My innocent daughter, Primrose, killed a duckling today. The poor kid. It brings her so much joy and excitement to hold them, to feed and water them, to sneak into the house to touch them and pet them, to be near them. But today, we made mistakes as parents by letting her stay inside the house too long unsupervised, and Savanna found her inside with a dead duckling.
Primrose has an idea about death, but like so many of us, she doesn’t quite understand it. We had a dog die last Thanksgiving and she still asks about her.
“Where is Nala?” she asks. “Will she come back?”
“Her body is dead, daughter,” I say. “But her spirit has traveled on. Her memory will remain with us forever.”
“Will she come back?”
“No, Primrose, she is never coming back.”
But she doesn’t get it, and I don’t really get it either. Every time we use the apple slicer to cut an apple she demands the core and says, “It’s for Nala. Nala loves this part.” Savanna and I look at each other in near tears not only because we miss Nala, but because it is kind of heartbreaking to see such innocence effected by loss and grief.
After Uncle moved out of the yurt, Primrose started asking, “Is Uncle dead?” This question was followed with, “Am I dead?”
Today we were riding the four-wheeler up the hill and she was leaning hard against my throttle arm and I told her to stop so she didn’t fall off. Of course, she kept doing it- until I explained to her that I didn’t want her to fall off the four-wheeler and get hurt. Her response was, “Will I be dead?”
Last July, after we harvested salmon and we were at home processing them, she kept touching the fish, even biting some of them. This winter, when Uncle and I harvested a handful of chickens, Primrose was right there watching us kill and clean them. She wanted to help. But today, my two year old, who will be three in 27 days, killed her first mammal. I am positive it was an accident, but it’s still a momentous day.
Of course we have joked about having to watch her as a potential serial killer in the future, one must joke during dark times to keep sane. If we start finding carcasses in the freezer we’ll have to watch out.
Savanna, Marlena, Primrose and I went on the edge of the orchard to dig a hole and bury the Pekin duckling. Primrose took it out of the box and dropped it in the hole and I covered it with dirt.
“What you doing, Daddy?” she said, aggressive like.
“Burying the duckling, daughter. It’s dead.”
We hung our heads while I thanked God for the duckling and apologized for the mistake. Primrose hung her head as well. When the prayer was over and Savanna had tears in her eyes, Primrose smiled super big and stepped on the burial spot with one foot and said, “It’s a present for you, Daddy!” Completely oblivious to the situation.
Thirty minutes later I watched her sit in the grass by herself for a few minutes with nothing in her hands at all. Just sitting there alone. Something very, VERY rare to see her do. Right after that I watched her storm inside the house by herself and I followed. “I want to be alone, Daddy!” Is her new favorite line. “Leave me alone!”
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I want to be alone!” she yelled.
I left her alone for a few minutes in the bathroom, when I came back I pushed the door open and she yelled at me again.
“Do you need a hug, daughter?” I said, walking into the bathroom.
She smiled with tears in her eyes and her bare butt on the toilet.
“Yes, Daddy. Come in. Hold me. I’m pooping.”
So I did just that.
Teaching our beautiful, innocent, precious daughters about the complexities of life is not easy. The big questions like “What happens when we die?” “What is the purpose of life?” and “How do we honor the dead?” Are difficult questions to find answers to, but we must try to find the answers and to share them with our children.
I may not know a lot, but I surely know this; I had a smack in the face reminder today that our sassy 3 year old doesn’t know quite as much about the world as she lets on. That being her father, and a damn good father if you ask me, means I need to be understanding, patient, and watchful. While she may yell at me and say, “I don’t like my Daddy,” every day, I know she doesn’t mean it. Just like I know she didn’t mean to kill that poor duckling. She truly does not understand the consequences of her actions.
Tomorrow, God willing I make it, I am going to Wagon Wheel to buy another duckling to accompany the lone baby that won’t stop crying for a friend. And we will try this again.
RIP Donald Duckling