Peas Out Mama

blogging about life in the mama 'hood

Be There Some More

As the traffic light turns red, I slow to a stop and let my gaze wander. My eyes land on the funeral home to my right. I’m used to looking that way. It’s on the corner–in an awkward location given how multiple streets meet at this light. I always think there’s not enough parking, too, though the lot is usually empty when I drive by. Today it’s not. I see the men first, then the casket, then the hearse. Without thinking, I hold my breath for a second, then release it. And then I think what I feel must be the stupidest thought of all, which is That sucks. Yup, death sucks. Really deep.

In the next moment, I remember that Boo is in the backseat. And I am ever so grateful that he grabbed those two trains he must be playing with. I don’t turn around to look at him. I don’t say anything. I just think Oh please don’t ask me what those guys are doing. Please don’t look up. Please, please. He doesn’t say a thing. The light turns green and I’m off the hook. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath again until I let out a small exhale of relief.

So yes, I had a mini-freak-out over what I would say to my son, who as far as I’m aware, has no concept of human death. He knows that batteries die, bugs maybe. That’s about as far as it goes (to my knowledge, anyway). It’s entirely possible he understands more than I realize.

I know we’re getting close to the question. He’s looked through my mom’s wedding album and asked who my grandmother was. I told him and saw his little brain working, wondering where she was. He has a framed photograph of my husband as a child, his dad, and his grandfather. Boo is named for them (the IV) and sort of understands that, too. He’s asked my husband about his grandfather. And in the moment it took for my husband to think of a response, Boo had moved on to something else (a truly rare occasion, as he typically badgers us with the same question until he gets an answer he understands well enough.)

I’ve heard stories of parents who’ve needed to talk about death with their little ones. It seems like in most cases, the simpler the explanation, the better, and that kids ask fewer questions than parents expect. I know we’ll be honest when he asks. But he’ll worry; it’s just who he is. And I’ll about fall on the floor in shock if he doesn’t ask at least 20 follow-up questions. Hell, we can’t get through a board book in under 10 minutes around here.

I think most of my issue about this (hence, the freak-out) comes from my own beliefs about death–beliefs that would offer no consolation to a preschooler. I would like to believe in a heaven or an after-life of some kind, but I don’t. For me, death is death. It’s a fact of life. A crappy fact of life. So I’m left empty-handed, so to speak. I have nothing to offer him.

And I can’t help but think of how often this will happen throughout his life. Times when I can’t console him or make him hurt less. When I can’t take away his worry or fear. And when I can’t make promises. Like anything else with this parenting thing, I suppose the only thing I can do is my best. I can be there for him. I can answer his questions. And I can be there some more.

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6 thoughts on “Be There Some More

  1. I understand your anxiety and we went through the same thing with Bella. We had a similar experience as Kathianne though, and just told her that people die. No mention of an afterlife or anything, and she accepted the explanation very simply – without all the drama that we’d anticipated. Personally, my beliefs align with yours – death is the end. I like getting wrapped up in thoughts of an afterlife or spirits transcending the physical realm, but when it comes down to it, I can’t convince myself there’s anything beyond the cessation of life. I’m pretty sure she’s heard of Heaven at this point, but there’s been no more questions on the subject. We just treated it very matter-of-factly and hopefully that’ll lay a decent enough foundation for the deeper questions arising later. Hopefully Boo’s response will only be as complex as the explanation he’s given. Good luck!

    • peasoutmama on said:

      Josh, thank you so much for your comment! So glad to hear how it went with Bella. And yes, I am somehow imagining drama (maybe because I can be a bit dramatic)? 🙂 There’s really been no reason to talk about it yet, but like I said, I figure it’s coming sometime soon. Thank you!

  2. Kathianne on said:

    He may not pay attention to the funeral home for awhile, but will probably understand that humans die before then. For my boys, I told them bluntly that people die, and although older people are more likely to die, that anyone can die. It came up because of our pool. I wanted them to know that pool safety is not a joke & to never sneak out to the pool without an adult & permission. I told them that a few years before an older brother of a friend of theirs had drowned in a pool when he snuck out of the house. Since then, they have heard about the deaths of a friend’s newborn sister and a friend’s grandmother. However, they have never asked what happens after death. Maybe you can just tell Boo that no one really knows, but people think different things.

    • peasoutmama on said:

      A friend’s newborn sister? Heartbreaking! I can’t even imagine. That’s so interesting that they haven’t asked about what happens after death. I don’t know why I get so stuck on that when he probably wouldn’t ask either. But he is on a kick of asking, “Then what?” to just about everything we do. He needs an agenda for life. Such a tough topic. I’m always interested to hear how other parents approach these things with their kids.

  3. So true! Seems like a good chunk of parenting is just being there.

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