There is no longer a panda cub. Losing someone you have known is devastating; losing an unknown, a hope, is its own kind of tragedy.
I’m sure, as we speak, Elton John is preparing a panda-themed cover of Candle in the Wind. (“And it seems to me you lived your life/Like a panda in the wind.”)
If you want to read something poignant about loss and the simultaneous resilience and fragility of human life, John Kelly has you covered. If you need help explaining this to your child, On Parenting has you covered. If you want to know what not to tell your child about this, read on.
How not to explain the loss of the baby panda to your child.
1) Truth: “I know. We lost a panda, and first — first the mother panda made a vocalization of distress, which is the saddest detail I’ve ever read in a panda story, ever. Sort of a honk, the story said. It ruined my Sunday. You’re sad? Yeah, I’m sad. I don’t blame you. It’s brutal. Man, life is brutal. Let’s get doughnuts, and then I’m going to go drink heavily.”
2) Anger: “It was a stupid panda anyway. Pandas are idiots. This is a species that has been known to sit on its young. They can’t reproduce without our help. If there were no more pandas in the world, we’d all be better off. Hey, you know what’s cute? Cockroaches. And they’re so durable. The thing about cockroaches is even if you lose one there are bound to be others. Hey, I bet if we looked hard around the house, we could find several live cockroaches to cheer you up.”
3) Denial: “We lost the baby panda? What makes you think we lost a baby panda? No, we didn’t. No, no, that’s just the liberal media. They like to make things up. The panda is fine. Death does not exist. The tooth fairy does. Come over here and listen to talk radio.”
4) Physics: “In situations like this, I generally take comfort in my extremely faulty understanding of the Many Worlds theory. Kid, uh, the wave function — there’s — so, picture a room with a cat in it, and this cat might be alive or — actually, you know what, never mind the cat — so there’s a room with a cat in it somewhere, but there are also many, many worlds where there are pandas. There is a panda somewhere. Yeah. Cling to that.”
5) Diversion: “Before I tell you anything about the panda cub, I should mention that there is no Santa.”
6) Context: “We lost the panda cub? Well, everyone you love is going to die. Everyone. Think about that. Yeah. Not so concerned about the panda now, are you?”
7) Use this disappointment to confirm your child’s political beliefs. “The panda cub didn’t just leave us, honey. That panda cub was murdered — by Republicans!”
8) Fake amnesia: Insist that there are no pandas and have never been any pandas. When pressed for details, offer candy.
9) The nuclear option: Surprise your child with tickets to Disneyworld and pray it doesn’t come up again.