Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Innocence Vs. Reality

Isn't it interesting how parenthood brings out issues within yourself that you never knew about before? For instance, I am apparently a control freak. I need order. Routine. I never knew this until I had kids, and I suspect that it's been there all along. In the same way, I've discovered something else about myself that's only recently come to the forefront. And here's how I've discovered it.

When reading fairy tales to Mia, I skip over the parts about death. The princess doesn't die after she pricks her finger on the spinning wheel, she merely falls ill. Peter Rabbit's father didn't die in Mrs. McGregor's pie, he just had an accident.

We fast forward through the beginning of Finding Nemo, in order to spare Mia's seeing Nemo's mom die.

Even worse, with Easter having just been celebrated I've skipped over the most important part. The entire meaning of and reason for Easter. Jesus' death and resurrection. It feels too big and terrible for a 3 year old to understand. Sometimes it's too big and terrible for me to understand.

I have the thought in the back of my head that kids at this age just accept things as they are, but I still can't bring myself to end this innocence of her life before the knowledge of death.

This leaves me in a tight spot, because what happens when she needs to know about death? What happens when there is a loss of someone close to us? Will we have put off teaching the information about death for too long and she'll be devastated by knowing about the end? Or am I once again over-thinking this whole thing? (I'm pretty sure that's why this phrase even popped into my head yesterday - it's been on my mind.)

The other day, Mia fell back dramatically on the couch cushions, breathlessly declaring, "I just died mama...I'm died." I smiled and nodded, not wanting to thwart her imaginary play, but startled by her choice of words. Where she'd heard those words, I don't know. Certainly not from me, the anti-death patrol. It was apparent that she didn't know the meaning of her own words, but they haunted me all day.

Death is so close to us, such a real part of our lives, that I can't ignore it. And I know it'll have to be dealt with sooner or later.

How do you talk to your kids about death? Do you sugar coat it? Lay it all out, facts on the line? Or wait until it's absolutely necessary before approaching the subject?

Advise me, before I gloss over this issue until my 3 year old is 10 years old. I wouldn't put it past myself to do just that, using my ever-trusty avoidance. It's gotten me this far. How much longer can it last?

5 comments:

  1. I feel your pain! When my niece died in 2007 (Faith was 5), I found this really great book called A Place in My Heart, by Annette Aubrey. See if you can find it on amazon or something, I ordered it through Scholastic. Anyway, it is a really great story about a little boy whose grandfather dies, and in the back it has great tips for parents too! Faith get really into books, so this HELPED her tremedously, but be prepared with tissues, because you will cry! Good luck!

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  2. Well, not that I know from experience but we did cover such issues in my childhood courses...books are always a good way to go and probably better to face the issue before the reality of losing someone happens, could just be a pet but devistating none the less and be prepared with books when you actually face those losses as well...I have heard that you shouldn't sugar coat it but you also shouldn't present bigger things that are hard for a youngster to understand, like you probably shoulnd't tell her that we will all die someday because that is a scary thought for even me. Good luck.

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  3. I kind of just lay it out for Kenna. Although she does get a bit of a fairytale version of things. She knows that everyone dies eventually and they go to heaven with God where, according to her, everyone has a puppy. This all started because she was asking who my dad was and where he is and all the other questions that go along with that. I still don't think she really gets it though. But I figure more understanding will come with age...at least she sort of has the basics for now. It came in handy when we had a pet lizard die a few weeks ago. Anyway, good luck explaining it to Mia. It'll prepare you for the where do babies come from question that I'm sure is just looming around the corner!

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  4. I've never dodged it in stories with my children (4 and 3). The princess dies, Mr. Rabbit dies, Jesus died and rose again. Also my mother died several years ago and my father has remarried, so I've had to explain that to them. (Because Grandma Jeanette was not *my* mommy when I was a little girl.) Last year the highlight of their year was going to a funeral (of a distant relative, not someone they knew).

    They talk about going to heaven all the time and have even been known to pretend that we are dead and they are trying to survive on their own. :-P It doesn't seem to disturb them in the slightest. (However, some kids are more sensitive than others.)

    Do they get the full impact of it? Of course not. I don't think it scares them more than they are ready to deal with, because they don't fully understand it yet. But at least they have a place to put the concept when the reality comes. I think fairy tales--not to mention Bible stories--are the perfect way to introduce the idea in a non-threatening way.

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  5. I totally think you should read the stories as they are. Try to get yourself in a mindset where you can deal with reading the material without falling apart (if that's a risk), and just get on through it. It's important to not avoid the reality of death- as a Christian, you know that death has been conquered, and that's something our kids should learn sooner than later. And that's why fairytales were written in the first place, to help teach us about real life. We learn courage, truthfulness and other moral lessons from these stories. From what I've seen on this blog, you have healthy happy girls, and you're a great mom. God bless your family.

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Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?