Be careful what you start (part 2)

CG, groaning as he sits on the step to put on his shoes: I'm getting old, Zo-

Z, cheerfully: -and then you're going to die!


Z's been talking A LOT about death lately. I am met at least once a day with questions I'd rather not entertain over my bowl of shredded wheat: Can you see anything when you're dead? Do bees bother you when you're dead? How do you know the exact day you're going to die?

It happens so often these days that these questions are no longer startling. But try as I might to be matter of fact - Death! It's just a part of life!- they will forever make me catch my breath, just a little.


Z, apropos of nothing
: When you die, Mommy, I'm going to miss you SO MUCH!!!!

CBHM, momentarily stricken mute: ..........Me too sweetie, let's talk about that after we pick out a nice loaf of bread here at the grocery store, m'kay?


When she started asking us questions about death and dying, it seemed like a passing fancy, a circumstantial inquiry. We drove by a cemetery and she asked what it was. After a moment of wondering if I should just tell her it's a park with lots of stones sticking out of the ground, I gave her a simple, honest answer. I thought that might be the end of it but, um, NO.

Are they lying down under there? Do they have a pillow? Can I have a sleeping toy when I'm bewweeeed?

CG and I try to answer her all her questions as simply and honestly as we can, and so these questions are no different. We try not to talk down to her, we use the real words for things and our real answers to the hard questions (which, for us heathens, means a whole lot of I don't really knows and some people think blah blah blahs and What do you think?s). But we also try to remember that she's THREE. And we don't want to scare or confuse her. So we keep it simple and try not to get too philosophical.

But her questions, and my answers, linger in my head for hours afterward. I've found myself ruminating daily over what I really think happens after we die (There's nothing like pondering life's little questions right before you go to bed, let me tell ya!). I wrestle with how to explain to her some cultural and religious perspectives along with my own personal ideas (Life is short and what we do here matters! Every action, every word spoken, every footstep has a rippling impact on our world! We all live on through our impact, our relationships, our love! We came from the world when we were born and we go back to the world when we die!).

I confess: more than a few times I've wished I told her it was just a park with a whole lot of stones in it.


Hillary said...

Oh I am not looking forward to those sorts of questions. My poor sister had to explain death to her 4 and 2-year-old boys the day after they got a new kitten, which then up and died suddenly. Rough.

KG said...

Phew. Persistent, isn't she (wonder where she gets it....). Have you read the book "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney"? Check it out and keep it in reserve, to use if needed. Be warned, for adults it is a TEAR-JERKER, but covers the "various beliefs" territory in a nice way.

Good Enough Mom said...

My five-year-old asked me yesterday, "Mommy, if you and daddy die at the same time, who will take care of me and brother?"

(we have a will, but don't want the named people to ever have to raise our kids!!)

Anyhow, I hear you. We have been inundated with all sorts of existential questions lately, too. (But our kiddo is five!) The questions are so hard to answer!

desperate housewife said...

Wow, I must say either your girly is very deep and thoughtful or my kids are a tad vapid for their age! Hah, just kidding, but seriously, those are TOUGH questions to be fielding from a three year old. Five or six and you'd feel a little more sure of what they were really trying to ask and of their ability to understand what you were telling them. In my opinion, three is like... the age of Inscrutible Mystery Child.

miyoko said...

about a year ago, p. called the graveyard a park with lots of buildings in it. i'm happy to leave it at that for now, but i think she's wising up and with the dog turning 17 this spring, it's unavoidable........

Naomi de la Torre said...

Great post! I remember when my son (who is now 5) first started asking about death. Now he regularly tells me that it will be sad when I die and he hopes we die at the same time. It is kind of disturbing and sweet at the same time. I found your awesome blog on existential waitress. You come highly recommended! I'd like to follow you, but didn't see a follow thingamagig. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. I'll just have to check again or write down your bloggie name. Have a great weekend and come by to my place for a visit sometime: organicmotherhoodwithcoolwhip.com

Amie said...

I am not looking forward to this. I have enough issues with death myself so it will be difficult when Bug starts into this phase. Maybe I should get therapy before that. I've got what, a couple years or so to get my head wrapped around this one?

Gina said...

I just wrote a post about Thomas' new found interest in all things deathly this past week. Must be a normal developmental phase for this age. Good to know.

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