Friday, March 14, 2008

Feeling One's Mortality: A Preschooler's Nightmare

Yesterday ...
We had picked up the ingredients for pizza making and BOY, GIRL and I set up shop in the kitchen - amidst buckets of flour, a much coveted and wildly wielded rolling pin and BIG fistfuls of cheese, we created a masterpiece shaped a bit strangely, but a masterpiece none-the-less. My fellow chefs wore aprons yet still managed to have flour covering small faces and torsos. I kept getting thanked for the experience by BOY, which felt pretty novel and strange:

Thank-you for letting us play restaurant, Restaurant Lady.

Are you talking to me?

Yes, Restaurant Lady, I am.

Apparently making pizza elevated me to Chefdom.

Last night....
At the end of her bath, GIRL was helping me gather the 8 THOUSAND bath toys to put into the perilously hanging/dangling toy net. One small, rather heavy, tugboat fell out and BONKED her in the forehead. She cried. I felt horrible. Guilty. Just bad. I hugged her. She cried some more... I scooped her up. She threw her arms around my neck and said:

I don't want to DIE, Mommy! I LOVE YOU!


[She was serious.]

I carried her into her room and we sat on the bed, with her in my lap.

Oh, sweetie, you're not going to die. What made you think of dying- the toy?

A quick nod, her huge, trusting eyes looking up at me.

Sweetie, that was just a BONK on your head. That's all it was. You're not going to die for a long, long, long, long, long, long....time. You'll be much, much older than Ma'Mai & Pops, than Granny & Doe Doe. Really, really old.

But, Mommy, I WILL DIE when I'm OLD.

Yes, sweetie. But, that is a long, looooong time from now.

I don't want to die. I want to be WITH YOU forever.

GIRL, you are going to be with me for a long time. Until you are ready to have your own place, someday. And that won't be for a while.

Not next year. Or Kindergarten? GIRL asked.

No GIRL, not for many years.


Can it be possible to question one's mortality at 3 1/2 years old? Apparently so... Somehow I must have skipped that day of Mommy School. The day when the syllabus on "Feeling One's Mortality: A Preschooler's Nightmare" was distributed to FREAKED OUT mothers everywhere. GIRL did me in last night. She just...did me in.

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  1. Deep breath. This worry is not at all unusual. What she wants to know (if my experience with nine preschooolers is any indication) is that you will still be a family after she dies. Which you will.

    C'mon, you Episcopalians can do this: God gave you to each other on purpose, and for a reason. All of God's reasons are forever. So you will belong to each other forever. In heaven, it will be even better...because it will be for ever and ever and ever.

    (You might try reading C.S. Lewis' THE LAST BATTLE, volume VII of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, to them. It was a huge help to my kids -- and to me, too!)

  2. Doesn't someone always die in every single Disney movie you've ever seen? No wonder kids are thinking about death! Once we had a special "movie day" at the preschool I worked, and showed Tarzan. One girl's mom was furious afterwards, saying that she became obsessed with her mom and dad dying.

  3. the big questions. they are hard. i think harder on us then on them -- we know what it really means to start getting your head around things like mortality. hug them tight.

  4. What a tender moment - it's hard for them to imagine a day when they won't be with us when they are that age.

    Shoot. Eighteen seems impossible when you are 3; leaving home.

    She's a sweetie.

  5. It is not only possible, it is developmentally appropriate! Four year olds are totally preoccupied with death; it's a little freaky, but they all go through it!

  6. I can't remember at what age mine started asking this, but it comes up off and on.

    But I do know I wasn't prepared for it. You handled it very well, and exactly right.

    What a sweet girl.

  7. It's so hard when our kids have fears we can't really stop. i thought you did very well to reassure her!

  8. I know you from Parent Ed! Fridays, teacher Marilyn... (last year, or three years ago... not sure) I finally found your blog. (And I'm so glad I did!)

    I've got one too!

  9. So sweet, these conversations!

    Thanks for coming by. Hope you are having a good weekend and I'll see you soon. Kellan

  10. It's perfectly normal but still causes some freaking out.

  11. My oldest girl was 4 when she asked me one day, from the back seat of the car, "Mommy, do we all die?" I almost drove into a fire hydrant. I told her calmly, "Yes, dear." And she was fine with that.

    But Kalynne is right - it is important to explain to her that she will never be alone, and that there is a new life waiting for her after this one.

  12. HRH started crying one night saying he didn't want to die because he'd miss me. I nearly cried too.

    I came up with an answer similar to yours and just held on to him until he (and I) felt better.

    Oh, they break your heart.

  13. you did good. you prepared me as well! ugh. the questions...

  14. Anything can prompt the question. My father died when I was 3 1/2 - that was a biggie. My grandfather died in November, which prompted numerous questions from the Queen, who was just under 4 at the time. And Jen is right, the Disney movies are big culprits (no one survives in those things). You did great.


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