Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Mortality

Recently Q has been asking about death. I think the first questions came up when we read 'The Story of Jonah,' illustrated by Peter Spier. However, I'm sure the topic would have arisen soon anyways, since (unfortunately) Q is starting to pay attention to adult conversation. Overhearing me mention that C's mother and S's grandfather died this past year sparked another flurry of questions.

We've been over the subject in a fairly cursory manner, about what we think is appropriate for a four year old. He returns to the topic when I'm least expecting it, causing me panic attacks.

"Mommy, when will you die?" A pop quiz in the car this time.



I answer calmly, "We hope not till I'm very old, honey."

"About twenty years." J mutters from the driver's seat. "Shut up." I reply.

"A hundred years from now?"

"That would be a long time, but maybe a little too long." I reply. "I hope not till you are grown up with children of your own."

"About twenty years." J quips again. "Shut up." I reply.

Although I know there's simply curiosity behind it, the most unnerving are questions like, "Mommy, when will Noodle die? When will I die?"



My reaction is out of proportion to the questions. I see ghostly visions when he asks, as if to talk about death with a child is to invite Death to dinner. That-which-should-not-be-spoken-of.

Q is searching for something with his questions. Not necessarily ages or dates, but the answer to a question he doesn't quite understand well enough to ask, and I don't understand well enough to answer.

2 comments:

Rollins said...

He is a very bright little boy. A burden you are going to have to live with.

Catherine said...

I think putting it into the context he can understand, as you did by saying "Hopefully not until you are grown up with children of your own," is a good response. That's what I do with E. And I'm also careful to make no promises, which you also seemed to be careful about.
Perhaps you should be spitting? Throwing salt over your shoulder? There must be some superstition.
-C.