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Musings

05. 1. 2010

I was going to write about how difficult the boy has been lately.  Defiance, tantrums, and disrespect are just the beginning.  He also thinks he’s always right and won’t believe anyone that he’s not unless it’s disproven by another source.  For example, he recently insisted that summer comes before spring, and nearly threw a fit when I tried to tell him otherwise, and STILL didn’t believe me until I pointed it out to him in a book of his.

But then tonight he asked me something that made my heart skip a beat.

We’d actually been having a nice evening, playing with blocks and walking outside.  Out of nowhere, he turns and asks, “Mommy, do kids die?”

I was momentarily stunned–not the question you expect from your four and a half year old son.

“Why do you ask, honey?” I inquired.

“I was just wondering.  Do they?”

I have a general policy of not lying to children, but trying to tell them the most appropriate truth for their age.  “Well,” I said cautiously, “Sadly, yes.  Sometimes kids get sick and die.”

“Oh. Mommy, do you ever want me or my sister to die?”

Holy crap.  “Never! I love you both so much, it would make me so sad if you died.  It would break my heart! I don’t want you to die until you’re a very very very very very old man.  Why are you asking this?”

“No reason.  I was just wondering.”

I couldn’t get any more out of him than that.  He doesn’t know any kids that have died, certainly hasn’t seen any movies that feature kids dying.  Still, the whole thing shook me up a bit.

As I thought about it more, I think what happened is this–we’ve been watching a lot of nature videos lately, and of course, something always gets eaten.  Tonight we watched one where a lion killed and ate a baby zebra, and I wonder if that got the wheels in his head spinning and making the connection between baby zebras and baby humans.  So much for Discovery Channel being safe watching ground.

How do you all deal with the little ones asking about the big D?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 05. 1. 2010 19:33

    We talk about the afterlife. I’ve fashioned a different version based on ages. We had a dog die when C was three – and she keened and mourned like you wouldn’t believe. At that time, my version of the afterlife was: Candy grass. Candy cane fences. Dog biscuits shaped like kitties and stars. We’ll see her again, someday.

    Now I read children’s books about different versions of what people believe – luckily my incredibly wise mom and dad who study all religions chime in and help.

    One of Sicily and John’s best friends since Sicily was one – my nanny’s granddaughter, has been on the vent for over two months seizing uncontrollably. She was trached a couple of weeks ago and they are currently discussing end-of-life. I visited her a lot in the beginning, and talked to doctors (they are a Spanish-speaking only family) – but she is an enigma. Completely healthy, before.

    Sicily and John are sad that they can’t visit her, but I let them both pick out presents (blanket and stuffed animal) for her 7th b-day on March 15. I agonized with my mom over what to do for a possible funeral, at their ages.

    “Don’t take them. You can go, but just talk about where she has gone, with them. Talk about what a wonderful place she is in, and how they will see her again someday.”

    We are cleaning house this week, readying to put it on the market. Sicily found a Christmas dog stuffed animal with a Santa hat and maracas that sings “Feliz Navidad.” She said, “Mom, put this aside for Natalie. I want her to have it, in the hospital. I can’t wait until she is well enough for us to visit her.”

    I tucked it away in my (oh-so-clean like it never has been!) closet. Cried when I looked at it the other morning, realistically knowing she probably won’t ever hear it. I’ll give it to Nina and let her decide what to do with it.

    Kids and death suck. I don’t know how on earth those pediatric oncologists do it. They must be angels.

    • sajbat permalink*
      05. 11. 2010 20:48

      So sad! What children’s books are you referring to above? I’d love to check them out.

  2. abby permalink
    05. 2. 2010 05:08

    we’ve also had a bunch of conversations about stuff that makes my toes curl (death, the Jewish mourning rituals, body parts of all shapes and sizes, religion, etc.) Our oldest happens to be a very curious child, and while sometimes I’m able to figure out his trigger, sometimes it’s out of reach, and I just have to answer whatever comes up. I also don’t lie, but try to taylor my answer to his age and the information he really wants. I’ve also had a general discussion about how I will always tell him the truth, and that he can always ask us anything. Sometimes, the discussion is a one time thing, other times he comes back for more a few days or weeks later.

    good luck!

    • sajbat permalink*
      05. 11. 2010 20:48

      Thanks for the comment, abby! Nice to hear there’s others out there taking things the same way.

  3. jenn permalink
    05. 11. 2010 23:57

    For the first anniversary of 9/11, I was in New Zealand on vacation and I had made fast friends with a little boy who was five. Anyway, that night the news comes on with the footage of the towers and this little boy who is sitting on my lap asks me why people are jumping out of the buildings.

    His parents weren’t there- and I have always remembered how my mind went dead blank for an entire minute.

    Although I have no children of my own- I believe you handled yourself exactly right- you cannot lie to a child. Hopefully – the temper and other issues are a phase.

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