Random Thoughts: The Existential Edition

Since October started, my children have debated about what they wanted to trick-or-treat as. I forget Flora’s original idea, but for the longest time, she kept telling me she wanted to be a girl skeleton. I wasn’t 100 percent sure what that entailed (turns out a skeleton-patterned outfit with a skirt and/or pink bow). But it struck me as very creative, and I was game.

Kate wanted to be a girl pirate, which I thought was perfect. I was busy gathering the pieces (eye patch, bandana, sword) and looking forward to having her swashbuckling through the neighborhood.

Then she decided she wanted to be a cat. Which disappointed me, but then the phrase Katie Cat popped in my head, and that was pretty fun.

And then, we went to a Halloween store.

Kate walked out with a Minnie Mouse costume (“it’s so cute and pretty!” she exclaimed), and Flora is going to be a cat. I tried to talk her into the all black cat costume, but she picked the one with hot pink trim and tail.

Oh, well.

++

As we all know, Halloween is full of spooky images, some more scary than others. But many of them, from ghosts to zombies to gravestones, revolve around death.

So I wasn’t all that surprised to get this the other night from Flora: “Am I going to die?”

Right before bed, too.

I admit, I was totally honest. “Yes, someday. But not for a very, very long time.”

She got sad. “I don’t want to die.”

“I know, baby. And you won’t for a long time. You are young and healthy” — all this time I am figuratively knocking on wood in my head, of course — “and Daddy and I work hard to keep you safe.”

“Are you going to die?”

I sighed. “Well, yes, honey. But, again, not for a very long time.”

“And Daddy is going to die.” Now she was starting to cry, and Kate was getting into the act too.

“I don’t want to die, either!” Kate cried.

Why didn’t someone warn me about this part of being a parent?

I eventually got them both soothed and settled. Isn’t almost 6 years old a little young for an existential crisis?

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6 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: The Existential Edition

  1. I hate this part about Halloween. I wish I could be a cooler mom about it, but my 5 year old is hypersensitive as it is so I definitely cringe at the thought of explaining some of the scarier imagery to him. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to it, and I certainly wasn’t sheltered from it as a kid. (Far from it: my cousins showed me “Poltergeist” when I was 4, thereby condemning me to a lifelong fear of the dark.) I just know that in my particular child’s case, he would strongly prefer a day where he can dress up (as a giraffe, this year), eat a couple treats and pass out snacks to other kids (he seems to dig that over trick or treating) without being concerned about the scary stuff potential. I don’t think he’s made the death connection yet, but that’s probably coming soon.

    Do you guys trick or treat in your neighborhood or do you go somewhere (like the mall, a community center, etc.)?

    • Kate has been fascinated by the idea of zombies since she saw the Michael Jackson Thriller video (I’m not 100% sure how that happened. I think we were watching YouTube on TV, and one of her older cousins wanted to show her “something really cool”). She is much more sanguine about… well, just about anything. Flora is my drama queen. They are both very smart — like your Avi — so that complicates things, I’m sure! 🙂

      I try to keep the focus on fun and treats, too. But we’ve been dealing with death in concrete terms around here lately, so everything just got all mixed in together.

      We go around our neighborhood. It’s very small, and I know everyone pretty much by sight. Plus they have parties at their school/daycare.

  2. My daughter turned 6 in August, and she hit me with a similar freak-out a few weeks ago (not for the first time either). After bed-time story, kisses and lights out, she called me back in about 15 minutes later and said “I don’t WANT to be dead when I die!!!”.

    I told her the same thing you told your daughters: that she’s young and healthy, and she they won’t die for a long, long time. Cringing all the while because, well, that’s not necessarily TRUE, is it? Young people, healthy people, die every day.

    Ultimately, I told her that dying is just a part of life, that every single thing that’s alive will die one day, and that when you think of it that way, it’s nothing to fear. I told her that when she DID die, I’d be waiting for her in Heaven.

    She thought about it for a few minutes, and then she asked me if she could have a poney. *Sigh*

    • Right. I totally would have promised a pony to get out of that conversation!

      The other part that really bothered Flora was the concept of being buried under the ground. I told her that the important part of who she was would be in heaven with God. That after she was dead (I don’t think I phrased it that bluntly), her body wouldn’t matter. It’s icky to think about your body being buried, even for adults. She was very upset about her Gigi going into the ground not too long ago, so she’s definitely processing some relevant stuff.

  3. Oh, that’s the WORST. My daughter asks me what I do for a living and when I tell her that I take care of sick people, she automatically asks me if I always make them better. I mean, I’m not one to lie, so I’ll simply tell her, “Yes, baby, sometimes they get all better and go home to their families. But sometimes people don’t get better.” And then she’ll bring up my Mom’s two dogs that recently had to be put down and it’s just like a sick cycle that goes on…and on…and on…

    • It seems to go in cycles for us, at least. Having to talk about it often because of your job must be incredibly difficult. This year, the girls have already been to two funerals, and a close friend’s dog recently died, so, yeah, it’s been huge around here. Plus with Flora’s age — it’s just what happens. “age-appropriate” doesn’t make it “easy for mommy to talk about”. 🙂

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