We have the coolest dentist in the world. He is charming and funny and friendly. He even makes balloon animals for the kids after their check-up! So, Maddie and Katie were quite happy with their balloon puppy and balloon monkey as we left the office yesterday.
We were about three blocks away when I heard it.
Balloon Puppy was gone, and Maddie was sobbing. Gasping for breath, snot running down her face, tears streaming. “Can we please go back, Mommy?” she wailed. “Please?? My puppy! My puppy!”
Although I was tempted to turn the car around, I thought: No, that’s ridiculous. We’re not going back. She has to learn.
What, exactly, does Maddie have to learn? That bad things happen in life? That sometimes you get a cute gift from somebody, and it blows up in your face moments later? That balloon puppies (and even people) die? That there is heartbreak in the world? That mommy can’t fix everything? That you can’t go marching back into a dentist’s office asking for another balloon animal? That sometimes your balloon animal pops but your sister’s doesn’t and too bad for you? That life sucks?
We drove all the way home – 15 long minutes – with Maddie sobbing. I just kept saying, “I know, Maddie. I’m sorry.” By the time we pulled into our driveway, Maddie’s face was red and wet, her eyes nearly swollen shut. She was so, so sad. We stood there in the driveway, hugging and mourning the loss of Balloon Puppy.
Then we heard a soft voice, “I will share with you, Maddie.” We turned to look at Katie, her own eyes wet with tears, holding Balloon Monkey.
Maybe there is a lesson here, after all. Maybe Maddie has to learn that sad things will happen, but when they do, you’ll find your sister in your corner. Maybe she needs to learn that no, Mommy can’t fix everything, but a hug from Mommy sure does feel good. Maybe she needs to learn that sometimes it just feels good to cry and your sister will usually cry with you. Maybe Maddie has to learn that when she hurts, we hurt. Maybe Maddie has to learn that there is pain, but there is so much love in the world, and she doesn’t have to look farther than her own sister to find it.
We grieved for Balloon Puppy for a few more minutes. Then we wiped off our tears and went inside. We had lunch, a pop in visit at my sister’s house, and a surprise arrival and sleepover from my mom. Daddy came home, and there were hugs and reports of no cavities. Maddie recounted the short life of Balloon Puppy to my mom, but there were no tears. Life moves on.
And we still think our dentist is pretty cool.