I would have taken the birds and the bees question over this one any day.
"Mommy, who will our parents be if you die?"
I put down the dish towel and set the pot I'd been drying down on the counter. The question came from our four-year-old.
I was stumped, so I tried to buy myself some time.
"Well, Jos...why do you ask?"
She looked up at me with guilty eyes. "Because of the marathon,"she whispered back. As much as I'd hoped that my running in the Boston Marathon on Monday and our proximity to the bombings was lost on Josie, I realized it wasn't.
Time was up. I had to give her an answer.
My husband was sitting at the dinner table, so I turned to him. "Do we tell them?," I asked.
"Uh...yeah," he said, nodding his head. "Might as well."
Problem was, I didn't know what to say. My audience was our four-year-old and our six-year-old. Neither of them knows what a living will is. Or what a trust is. But they know what death is -- when we had to let our dog go last fall they saw that it was permanent.
I gave myself a minute to think. How the hell do I explain a contingency plan to a preschooler and a kindergartener?
I gave Tony a wide-eyed look. He shot me the same one back.
Rainy day...rainy day...rainy day... I kept repeating the words over and over in my head. Suddenly, an answer. It was the best I could do.
"So, Josie, sometimes you have to have two plans for something," I began. "Like say we decide that this summer on Thursday, June 16th, we're going to Kings Island."
The kid likes herself an amusement park, so I had her hooked. "Thing is that we don't know what the weather's going to be like on June 16th because it's so far away. So I tell you that if it rains, we'll go for ice cream instead," I explained.
I wanted to know that she and her sister understood, so I asked them, "OK, so what do we do if it's sunny?"
"Kings Island!!," they said in unison.
"And what if it rains?"
"Ice cream," Josie answered. She got it.
"Well, you do the same thing when you become a mom and dad," I explained. "We like to figure that we're going to be around for you guys, but like with Kings Island, we don't know for sure. So we have to make another plan for someone else to take care of you just in case. You understand?"
They both nodded. Amusement parks and ice cream was something they understood. It may not have been the best comparison, but in a pinch, it worked.
"But just so you know, we'll always be your parents, whether we're here or not...OK?"
The girls looked at me and then at Tony, who nodded at them with a smile.
"OK," they both said.
"That answer your question?," I asked, hoping I had.
"Uh-huh," Josie answered. End of conversation.
So I picked up the towel and finished drying the pot. And I figured I'd better start coming up with a better idea for the birds and the bees.