Discussing Death With A Four Year Old Who Predicts His Own Demise

I’m driving with my four year old.

Me: Look sweetie! Police cars!

We all stare as it dawns on me that the police are escorting ten cars with headlights beaming. I sigh at my own ineptitude.

E: What’s that mama?

Me: It’s a funeral, E.

E: What’s a funeral?

Me: It’s a celebration of someone’s death.

Um, wait, I don’t want death to sound TOO GOOD.

Me: It’s when people remember someone who dies.

And the gods of awkward smite the conversation. And I believe that I am saved.

Until we pass not one but TWO MORE funerals the following day. Not a good week for us humans. But a pretty good week for the gods of awkward and paranoia.

E: Is that another funeral?

Me: Yeah, sweetie.

E: Mama, does everyone die?

Me: Yes they do.

E: Will I die?

Me {deep breathe}: Yes. But I hope it’s not for a long time.

E: Like three days?

WTH! I claw for my catch phrase.

Me: I hope that it’s longer than that.

E: Ok, maybe I’ll die in ten days.

Benign panic is now fighting with extraordinary paranoia for control of my mouth and extremities. I don’t want my son afraid of death. And I don’t want to argue his lifespan. But ten days? OMG OMG OMG

And then, the humble realization, that I have no control over his lifespan and agreeing with him can’t MAKE anything happen, wins.

Me: Okay, E. Ten days.

It also helps that my son can’t tell time, and ten days to a preschooler IS a lifetime.

I also sacrificed a goat.  JUST IN CASE.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

21 thoughts to “Discussing Death With A Four Year Old Who Predicts His Own Demise”

  1. Haha it is always entertaining to hear what a child will say and is thinking. That is a tough subject to talk about with kids. You want them to understand death but at the same time you don’t want to have a in depth conversation about it. I agree I hope 10 days is really a lifetime.

  2. Oh good, I was getting all ready to send you MY goat just in case you needed it.

    I don’t take any chances with jinxes. I think I’ve seen those Final Destination movies too many times, now that I think about it.

  3. Ugh…the dreaded death question! My son started in about that age too and like you I tried to balance the severity of death with not trying to scare him. It’s such a tight rope to balance on!

    I’ve given my son small doses of what it all means, their little minds can only handle so much. I love the way you handled it and your son sounds adorable!

  4. Your son is so adorable.

    My little girl began using a concept that she seems to accept, saving me from endless explanations. Whenever she doesn’t get permission to do something she would like, or if it simply cannot happen at a specific time, she’ll calmly respond, “Okay Momma. Next week, then.”

    So next week? We’ve apparently planned a trip to Disneyland, are visiting Ariel under the sea, our dog (male) will give birth to puppies, and my son will be moving to Grammie’s. Next week.

  5. We have had to deal with the whole death thing after my Mom’s and neighbor’s dogs died. Now my 3 1/2 year old talks incessantly about it. “How do you die Mommy?” “When do you die.” “Will you die before me?” Soooo hard to find that balance without freaking them out. She’s also obsessed about Mummys and I am a former middle school teacher, taught Egypt, taught Mummys and now I am flummoxed on how exactly to explain it in a way that again, does not freak her out. Good job on the goat sacrifice…we prefer drinking the venom of an Asp..but sometimes that’s hard to get.

  6. Wait…a GOAT? You sacrificed a lawnmower that doesn’t even taste good. Next time (and there’s always a next time with weird kid conversations), sacrifice a pig. At least you could get some good bacon out of the deal.

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