It’s hard to talk about the idea of death with your kids, but lately it seems to come up all the time. Like when we went to visit the 4YO’s chick and one of the others had recently expired and was lying conspicuously in the wood shavings. Dinner always has the potential to trigger a morbid line of questioning. So does absent-mindedly smacking at fruit flies.
The kids don’t have a lot of personal experience with death, thank goodness, although they do ask about the cats from time to time, wondering if their absence really is a permanent condition. But I feel a responsibility to try to help them understand that death is a natural part of life, even if I barely have a true understanding of that myself.
Recently, the 4YO was brooding over a flower he had picked that was wilting. I explained that, although it was dying, it would drop its seeds to make more flowers as a way of living on. I gathered from the expression on his face that this concept was way too abstract. Then I told him we would bring the flower outside and lay it in the flowerbed and the stem and the leaves and the petals would turn back into dirt, which would help make a good spot for the new flowers to grow. Nice try, Tammy, but nope, still not getting through. He needed more concrete, practical answers.
Him: But…at the end of the world, it will die.
Me: Well, yes. It will die.
Him: So what will we do?
Me: We will love it very much before it dies.
Him: And then, when it dies, we won’t love it anymore?
Me: No, no. We will still love it. We will definitely still love it.
Being a parent is hard.