There’s been general talk of death on and off at our place for a while now. Don’t get me wrong – things are quite upbeat around here – but over a year ago, Mr.4 spotted a very dead, gruesome-looking possum on someone’s front nature strip. And since then, he’s raised the question of things dying (people, animals, plants) from time to time.
Up until now, the discussion’s been pretty brief: “that <person/animal/flower> is dead now. They died.” “..that’s sad. I don’t want to die.” “I don’t want you to die Mummy.”
All fairly easy to give simple responses to: “Yes.” “It is sad.” “I know..but you don’t need to worry, that’s a long long time away..”
A few days ago however, the topic became a little more complex – with Mr.4 deciding to branch out into religion.
The other night, I was reading Mr.4 a book about Edward. Edward is one of thousands upon thousands of fictional Thomas the Tank Engine characters – though granted, Edward is one of the originals. In the story, it describes how Edward’s an old train: clanks a lot, needs to go to the Works to be fixed, etc.
Mr.4 interrupted my reading. “Edward’s old. Like you Mummy.” (Obviously I must remind him of Edward. I do need to go the Works actually. It’s called a Day Spa.)
It wasn’t the first time I’ve been called old by Mr.4 – so no biggie. “Yeah, he’s old…just like me.”
“And when you get old, then you die”, replies Mr.4.
“Well, usually when you are very old…and I’m not very old at all, James.” (Ageing, death.. let’s get back to the book already!)
Mr.4 then says, very matter-of-factly, “But when you do die, you go to GOD.”
(Okaaay.) “Ummm, yes that’s right. Who taught you that?” (Not us.)
“I learnt it at childcare.”
“Oh, you did? Ok.” (since when were they teaching religion at childcare?)
Mr.4 continued. “I haven’t seen God. Why can’t I see God? Is it a man, or a lady?”
(Long pause) “Well..I don’t know if it’s a man or a lady. You can’t see God…but God watches over everyone and is very kind..and helps you do the right thing sometimes.”
(Something like that…apparently. Um, what did I just tell my kid?)
Fortunately, Mr.4 seemed to be satisfied with that answer, so we continued to read Edward.
Now I wouldn’t call myself an atheist, but I’m not entirely sure what I believe in either. We both want our kids to be free to choose for themselves what they believe in down the track. Just as I don’t appreciate religious views being pushed upon me, I don’t want to force a particular view onto my kids, either.
But while they’re growing up, they turn to you of course for answers. And you don’t want to deny them information about anything – various religions included, should the conversation arise. I get the feeling though that from now on, explaining controversial topics like death and religion is only going to get more tricky. Which isn’t helped by the fact I haven’t formed a firm opinion for myself yet.
It must have been a thoughtful week for Mr.4, as he was at me again with more questions the following day.
The next morning, driving along in the car, Mr.4 decides sex should be the topic of the day. To date, Mr.4 has only really known babies have grown in my ‘tummy’, that he and Mr.1 ‘popped out’…and voila! Easy peasy Japanesy!
Occasionally Mr.4 requests another sibling. That morning, he must have been feeling particularly affectionate towards his younger brother because he started laying on the pressure big time.
“I WANT ANOTHER BABY” he says, out of the blue.
“Oh! Hmmmm..you do, do you? Are you sure about that?”
“Yep. I need another baby. I want one brother and one sister. I want a girl.”
“Well, it’s not that easy James, I’m afraid…I can’t just pop one out. It takes time.” (Well the first bit’s easy…but not the 9 months following, and the 20 years after that..)
“Awwwhhhh!” big long whine from Mr.4, using the same tone as if I’d just denied him an icecream.
“I don’t know. We’ll see…maybe one day.” (No no no. NO.)
Mr.4 keeps at me. “You had two seeds in you. And now you just need another one!”
(Huh? Seeds?) “Did you say seeds?” We were on our way to buy plants, and I thought he may have moved on to talking about plant seeds…
“Yes – you had one seed that grew into me, and one that grew into Ryan. And now you just need another one for a GIRL baby.”
“Where’d you learn about seeds, James?”
“So Daddy told you about seeds being inside me?”
“Yep. Daddy put two seeds in you – one me, one Ryan – and then we grew.”
“Well yes that’s right, he did.” (and there may still be a lot of seeds about, but let it be known, no more shall be sprouting inside me.)
And then, the question I didn’t expect him to think to ask, not yet.
“How did Daddy get the seeds in your tummy?”
Then, at that moment, we arrived at garden centre. Spared – till the next round!
Parents with older kids, I am keen to know: how do you answer questions your kids ask, when you’re not that certain of the answer yourself?
I blog-hopped this post today over at Lori’s place as part of FlogYoBlog Friday… check out lots of awesome posts over there today!