Yiannis is a quiet boy. He doesn’t talk much. Large crowds of people tend to make him feel uncomfortable. He rarely opens up and when he does he usually chooses the worst timing (like bedtime), unless we are in the car. The most heartfelt discussions I have with my son occur while I drive and he sits in the back.
When I picked him up from school yesterday I was trying to find the right words to tell him that the uncle of my brother-in-law died the night before. He was pretty tired and didn’t really respond to the news, apart from acknowledging the fact that it was something really sad. He had only seen him a couple of times and didn’t really know him. Still, the subject of death is always a hard one.
When my grandfather died a few days after Yianni’s 4th birthday I was trying to figure out the ‘best’ way to explain death to a 4-year-old. Yiannis had always been mature for his age and I opted for the honest approach (surprise surprise).
A few hours later while I was leaving my mom’s place and driving home he started the following conversation:
Yiannis: Mom, can I ask you something?
Me: Sure honey, go ahead.
Yiannis: I still have plenty of time, right?
Me: What do you mean honey? I was way too tired to realize what he was talking about
Yiannis: I will not die yet, will I?
Me: too shocked and too sad to promptly reply…it took me a few seconds: No, honey, of course not.
Yiannis: I mean, I am still a kid. I first have to become a dad and then a granddad, right?
Me: Yes, honey. I was an emotional wreck by now. This is how it USUALLY works and how it SHOULD work….I paused for a minute or so wondering whether I should just shut my mouth right then and there or go on and be as honest as it gets: but…unfortunately, life doesn’t always go as planned and sometimes terrible things happen.
Yiannis: Like what? I was obviously dreading that question but I had decided to go down the honest road and now I needed to finish what I had started
Me: Sometimes, moms and dads die as well. And sometimes, something terrible might also happen to a child. Too much information??
Yiannis: A child can die as well? As If I needed to paint a clearer picture!
Me: Yes, honey. Unfortunately some children die as well. That’s life. Seriously? A life lesson at 5 1/2??? What was I thinking??
How about you? How have you dealt with this subject with your little ones?
Until next time,