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More Better Death Writing

April 28th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  10 Comments

Even casual observers of DadWagon must know that I love me some kids-ponder-death writing. I do it myself as often as the cheerful bastards who co-blog here will allow.

This piece from Her Bad Mother is a lovely read. And at the same time depressing because really, none of us parents have good answers for our kids.

The one thing we’ve decided to fudge is that we are promising our 4-year-old daughter Dalia that we won’t die and that her little brother won’t die. As in, ever. Because she asks, but she doesn’t want to hear about cycle of life and all that crap. She wants to hear that she is safe and that we are safe. Until the day I’m smote by my maker—or until she’s a little older—that is my story and I’m sticking to it.


Responses

  1. Jack says:

    April 28th, 2010at 3:08 pm(#)

    I have spoken with my kids about death quite a few times. It can be a rough conversation, but as they age it becomes easier.

  2. Carly says:

    April 29th, 2010at 9:54 am(#)

    I was flummoxed by this topic this very morning. Help, please, sage Dad-wagoneers. My 3 1/2 year old keeps telling me he doesn’t want to die. He found out about death thanks to Sesame Street (in the vintage episode where Big Bird learns that Mr. Hooper is dead, and the cast helpfully explains that everyone dies); we haven’t had to confront it yet in real life. But he extrapolated correctly that if everyone dies, then he must have to too.

    At first, I explained that people die when they are very very old and have lived an interesting life. He answered, very old, like 20? I said, very old, like 80. That kept him quiet for a little bit. This morning, though, he kept asking, ‘Am I going to die? I don’t want to die.’ And I just ignored it! I can’t actually lie as well as Nathan and just baldly say, no, never, you are a lovely fairy, since I screwed it up with my first stab at adulterated honesty. So what now?

  3. Matt says:

    April 29th, 2010at 10:20 am(#)

    @Carly: My kid’s too young for this stuff, so I haven’t dealt with it, but I imagine I would say something like this: “You know how every evening you don’t want to go to sleep? You fight and struggle and want to stay up playing, but eventually, when you finally lie down and close your eyes, you realize you’re tired and that sleep is really a better idea than fighting sleep. Well, that’s what death is like—after 80 or 100 years, sometimes it’s just better to go.”

    Okay, maybe that’s only comforting to me.

  4. dadwagon says:

    April 29th, 2010at 10:28 am(#)

    Umm, sounds a little too much like a metallica song to me, Matt. Carly, it may not be too late to just lie through your teeth. Kids that age aren’t very good at policing you for contradictions one week to the next. –Nathan

  5. Matt says:

    April 29th, 2010at 10:31 am(#)

    Wait, is sounding like a Metallica song a bad thing now? Damn, I gotta get out more.

  6. scottstev says:

    April 29th, 2010at 12:53 pm(#)

    I got to agree that 3 1/2 – 4 is too young to get to into death. That age is on the borderline of when children can handle it.But don’t rely on your instincts and knowledge to determine when your child has crossed the threshold. Instead, listen to TV experts and anonymous blog commentors for the important decisions.

    I imagine that atheist parents have a harder time explaining it than the standard “no, you just go to heaven” dodge that us religious folks get to use.

    In either case, huzzah for defending lying to your children. White lies are a useful tool that was unfairly disparaged during the sixties and seventies. Damn Hippies.

  7. Jenn Kaplan says:

    April 29th, 2010at 2:26 pm(#)

    I feel you Nathan. I used to be so reluctant to acknowledge the concept of death to my daughter that the first time she asked me where my grandparents were, I told her they were in Hawaii (where they are buried–didn’t mention that part). However, despite all my clever ruses, she did figure out (at school? from tv?) that people die. Our story: Unless some freak accident happens (which of course will never happen to us), you die when you’re 100. It’s just like going to sleep, you rest for a while, and then you’re reborn. And you can be reborn with your same family members, so you’ll still be together. Who knew, reincarnation swooped in to save the day. She’s totally into it. Last week she told me she thinks she might have been a star (the astral kind) before she was born. Why not…

  8. Julia says:

    May 3rd, 2010at 11:06 pm(#)

    When I was quite young, but probably older than 4, I asked my mother one day if she was going to die. She told me ‘yes, one day, a long time from now’. This was totally unacceptable. I got very upset and asked her again. She said ‘no, never’. I remember recognizing the revision from the original but feeling reassured all the same because those were the words that I wanted to come from my mothers lips at that moment. And so it does not feel wrong when I reassure my 4-year-old, who has had a family member die and who becomes panicked at the thought of another one dying, that she, her brother, her father and I will never die.

    This version seems appropriate for now. I did try others. “Don’t worry, I won’t die for another hundred years” did not go over well. And I understood why when I later overheard her saying “lunch time is a hundred years from now!”. At a later stage she will revisit the topic differently when her brain is ready to think of death in a slightly more realistic way.

    Sweet dreams. Death=slumber just makes bedtime very scary instead of making death less scary. And you go to bed EVERY SINGLE DAY, sometimes TWICE a day for the preschool set. “Don’t let the bedbugs bite”, “and if I die before I wake…”, “down will come baby cradle and all”!? Rich stuff.

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