The other day I took Ava to a place called Pretend City. For those of you who don’t live near me, it’s literally a mini city for children. It’s in a huge warehouse-like building and the inside is set up like small downtown. It has a house, garden, grocery store, doctor’s & dentist’s office, library, restaurant, bank, beach, police station, water area, construction area, art area, stage, and even roads with little cars the kids can drive around. Basically the kids just run around and pretend to be whatever they want to be. It’s a great place!
Anyways, while I was there watching Ava play in the restaurant area, pretending to be a waitress and bring me fake food, it struck me how much I have come to love pretending again, as an adult. I love to pretend that Hailey is still here, alive and well and growing up with her sisters and brother. When I’m with my kids, I often sit back and watch them wondering where Hailey would be in the mix and pretending that she’s up in her room playing or in the bathroom or on a play date, but wherever it may be I also pretend that she’ll be home that night for dinner.
I have found that I actually enjoy talking with people I don’t know, and that I’ll probably never see again, about my kids. When I do so, I just pretend that Hailey is still here and talk about her as she was and as I think she would be. For example, I met a lady sitting in the doctor’s office one day when I was with Ava and Joey. Of course, the inevitable question, “How many kids do you have,” was asked. I quickly answered 4, as I always do and always will. Then, like clockwork, she asked their ages. I know she was just trying to make small talk, but people have no idea how much that question stings when you’ve lost one of your children. It’s the worst. So, as always, I said, “8, 5, 2 ½, and 3 months.”
It took me so long, after Hailey died, to figure out how I was going to answer those questions because I knew that’s usually the first thing people ask when they see someone with a bunch of kids. After much thought and trying out of different responses, I decided from now on to answer just as I did.
Anyways, since I knew I would probably never see this lady again, I felt no need to inform her that my “5” year old isn’t actually five because she died when she was three. When that comes up, there’s always the awkward, “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and then silence, to which I end up comforting the person I’m talking to and trying to make them feel better by saying it’s okay, (when, in fact, it’s really not). So instead of going there I just started telling her about Lexi and how she’s in third grade and all about Hailey and what a great big sister she is to Ava and Joey (because I know she would be). I started to really enjoy pretending that Hailey was still here and talking about her as if she was now a happy, healthy five-year old in Kindergarten.
I don’t know if that’s considered lying or not and at first I worried about it because one thing I am definitely not is a liar, but then I realized that it’s not a lie at all because Hailey is still very much here and alive in spirit. And she is still the same strong, spunky, happy go-lucky, aMAYZing, little girl in spirit as she would be in body. So that’s my Pretend “City.”