Friday, September 14, 2012

Talking About Death With a Toddler

This morning's conversation:

Baby: "My mom has really big earrings"
Me: "Yeah?"
Baby: "Yes. They have lots and lots of diamonds on them"
Me: *trying to figure out who 'mom' is*
Baby: "But they are at my mom's house"
Me: "Where does your mom live??"
Baby: *ignores my questions* "One day she gave them to me. Mommy's mom"

Ahhhhhh suddenly I get it. We had been looking at my watch while she was cuddled up on my lap before I left for work this morning. I told her that my mama had bought me the watch 11 years ago. She asked where my mama is and I tell her she's not alive anymore. She has also recently been extremely interested in looking at a photo of S and her mom that sits on the bookshelf. She seems convinced that she has met S's mom and that she knows her. (S's mom passed away in 2007.) As a result I've had to start having conversations about growing old and death. When I tell her someone is dead she usually asks why in a sad tone of voice. It's been a strange topic of conversation.

She obviously "gets" death in the most basic way - that it means someone isn't here anymore. But I'm not sure she gets that they aren't anywhere on earth. She asked me the other day in the car why people have to die. I explained that the cycle of life is that we're born, we live a happy, full life (hopefully) and then everyone dies. I think I compared it to the plant we have at home that grows flowers and then they die and then new flowers grow (this part may have been confusing...I was grasping for a simple example). I took care to emphasize that most people live a really long life and that death happens "a long time from now." That seemed to be good enough and she changed the subject.

I like and appreciate that she is asking these kinds of questions. I hope to never answer a question like this with "just because."  But it's hard. It forces me to really evaluate my own feelings on things. Big idea things. Or everyday things that I take for granted and don't give much thought to. Conversations like these are great opportunities. To learn, connect and dig deep into things. I feel like I would be missing out if I dismissed them. So, lesson #356, receive your toddlers millionth question as a gift. A gift of trust, confidence and respect.

No comments: