Friends, I have some bad news to share. Skittles, the beloved lower school guinea pig, died last week. Yes, the very same Skittles who Zoey brought carrots to every morning before school. The Skittles Zoey immortalized in song, art, and in her rest time journal. The Skittles who vacationed at our house over spring break.
I heard the news from Demetri who forwarded me an email from the science teacher. Unlike some people, the science teacher wrote an appropriate and thoughtful message,
Skittles passed away last night. I will be thinking about your family tonight. I think Zoey loved Skittles the most of all of us. Hopefully our chicks will hatch next week, and she will have something to smile about.
Above the lovely message from the science teacher Demetri wrote,
Holy crap! I think we killed Skittles!
Apparently, Demetri and Zoey had branched out from the usual morning carrot and had been bringing Skittles fresh grass and violets from our yard. A quick google search revealed that we had not killed Skittles. Probably. At least I couldn’t find anything that said violets were harmful, per se. It seems that dandelions might have been a better choice.
I was really nervous about breaking the news to Zoey. I was so nervous that I solicited advice on facebook. And one friend in particular (Hi ALS) had amazing advice:
As for what to say, I’m thinking something along the lines of “it’s sad that Skittles died, and it’s okay to feel sad, but the important thing is that he had a good life and was very loved. And when we love someone, we can remember them with happy thoughts, and that way they’re not all the way gone. And someday, when you’re ready, you will meet a new friend that you love as much as you love Skittles.”
She definitely wins at How to Tell Your Kid About The Death of a Beloved Animal prize. (Hm . . . I wonder what that trophy would look like.) After memorizing my friend’s speech, placing tissue boxes strategically around the house, and defrosting oatmeal raisin cookies, I was ready to nurture my child through the loss of Skittles. After school I sat Zoey down on the couch, held her hand, and told her the news.
Zoey gave an exasperated sigh, “I know Skittles died. Susie told me.”
“Oh, okay.” I let out my own sigh and regrouped. “Well, if you want to talk about it we can. Remember, it;s okay to feel sad. And if you have any questions you can ask me. Or if you have anything you want to say, Daddy and I are here to listen.”
Zoey began to pick at the hem of her dress. “Actually Mommy? I do have a question.”
I struggled to maintain my motherly look of loving calmness. Ohmygodshehasaquestion!!!! Breathe! Breathe! I can do this! “Okay.” I cleared my throat, “Sure. What is it?”
Zoey mumbled and looked at her feet. In a reassuring (and genius!) parenting move I pulled her on to my lap for a snuggle. We both took a deep breath.
“Well? Mommy?” Zoey turned her face to whisper into the crook of my neck. “I was wondering . . . what does ferret poop look like?”
And that’s how we ended up googling images of ferret poop. Which, by the way, I don’t recommend doing.