3am: the perfect time to talk about death.

Flea

The annoying thing about crucial parenting moments is the way they sneak up on you. I think you should get a letter 48 hours in advance that says, “On Tuesday you will be required to explain the concept of death to a four year old.  You may not refer to your notes during the examination.”

Unfortunately, you’re more likely to wake up at 3am to find a four year old lying in bed with you, eyes boring into your skull.

“Did you know, lots of Mummies and Daddies die,” Flea tells me, in the exact same voice she uses to say, “I know how to spell cat.” 

“Oh. What?” (my vocabulary shrinks by 60% with each hour after midnight)

“Natasha told me her Mummy and Daddy died.”

“Didn’t Natasha’s Mummy just have twins?”

“No, they are dead.”

“I don’t think so, honey. I am pretty sure her Mummy just had babies.” 

“Natasha told me they are dead. Lots of people have dead parents.”

“We’ve talked about this. With a bit of luck, most people don’t die until they’re really old. Then their bodies stop working and they die, and new people are born. Right?”

“Right.”

There’s a silence. I feel myself sliding back into unconsciousness, when Flea sits bolt upright, and says “Oh!” in a voice that suggests it’s all just slotted into place in her brain.

“Huh?” I mutter.

“Grandma will die quite soon, then, I expect.”

I pretend to be asleep.

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

16 Comments

  1. 23rd February 2010 / 7:47 am

    I find small children to be quite matter of fact about death. It doesn’t seem to hold the same scary power for them as it does for older children and adults. Perhaps this is because they are just more fearless generally – I don’t know…

  2. 23rd February 2010 / 7:59 am

    I think that they are quite curious about death at this age. Mini keeps talking about Granpa B being dead and why it happened too!

  3. It's a mummys life
    23rd February 2010 / 8:38 am

    She’s priceless your daughter. I love the things she says, hope you got back to sleep. I was woken up st 5 am by s toddler demanding to be read ‘farmer duck’

  4. Vic
    23rd February 2010 / 9:57 am

    Flea sounds just like the boy telling me grandmother’s nearly 100 so she’ll die soon. It’s amazing the way kids take discussions about subjects as somber as death so easily. It’s just one of their wonders.

  5. 23rd February 2010 / 11:37 am

    The way they reconcile everything in their brain is amazing, isn’t it? thank goodness they are mostly fearless creatures and death is such an abstract to them.

  6. Sally
    Author
    23rd February 2010 / 12:24 pm

    @Gappy – yes, I read somewhere kids are 6 or 7 before they can really grasp the concept fully.
    @MadHouse – poor Grandpa!
    @It’s a Mummy’s Life – Farmer Duck? I know what I’d have said at that time…. 😉
    @Vic – They are weird little critters, aren’t they?
    @Heather – I think children are perfect studies of consistent logic, too.

  7. Nikki
    23rd February 2010 / 12:36 pm

    LOL, I think the kids are at that age when death is fascinating. our two point out graveyards and headstones saying “that’s where the dead people live” and “the dead are under those stones Mummy” – personally I blame their Father for telling them once that graveyards are where we keep the dead. Fantastic.
    My daughters also cottoned on to the dead Nana thing and said the other day “Nana, when you die I’ve having your dolls house” – another proud moment – not!!

  8. 23rd February 2010 / 12:58 pm

    Bless her! That’s all I have to say! Adorable…even at stupid o’clock in the morning.

  9. 23rd February 2010 / 10:39 pm

    Oh, the death conversations. They tire me out. SOOOO much.

  10. 24th February 2010 / 8:41 am

    I have this discussion quite a lot with my 10 year old, and wrote a post on it before Xmas when her beloved Uncle wanted to say goodbye to us before he died. She worries about it so much, as 3 of her grandparents have already died, and her grandpa, now 93, has dementia and is not likely to hang on much longer, and she obviously realises that. It is OK for them to grasp the concept that we are born,we live and we die, but quite stressful when one child has to have so much so ‘close to home’. On a happier note, she did ask if, when we die, she would have my nice bras!! They are so adorable.

  11. 24th February 2010 / 4:49 pm

    We’ve just started having the death conversations. My girl has also pointed out several family members who must be up for death soon. To them. We don’t seem to be getting invited to lunch very much at the mo.

  12. 24th February 2010 / 7:47 pm

    Your daughter is definitely precious!

  13. 25th February 2010 / 10:12 am

    I’ve done one death conversation _ or series of conversationas and observations and due to have a repeat withteh nearly 4 year old soon; also just started to have the joys of the sex conversation with teh soon to be seven year old – I think I prefer death one any day!

  14. 25th February 2010 / 2:03 pm

    An Inquisitive young one you have there! I think my kids understood death after they watched the Lion King…ahh the circle of life 🙂

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