‘I still have plenty of time, right?’

5 Mar

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,




21 Responses to “‘I still have plenty of time, right?’”

  1. Bestof2sisters March 5, 2013 at 11:03 am #

    Oh, sweet, sweet little boy, with such a big mind. I think you handled it well, to be honest. Honesty IS the best approach, even though it also often the hardest. I dread the day I have to explain subjects like death, loss, tragedy to my children…

    • wonderlandbytatu March 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      thank you Camilla, I am always honest with my kids, I think this is the only way to gain their trust. It is sometimes much harder to be honest but it certainly pays off later on…how old are your children now?

      • Bestof2sisters March 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

        1 and 3. Finley asked me yesterday what a prison was, and I found that hard enough!

      • wonderlandbytatu March 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        autsch! that is a tough one as well….wouldn’t it be great if we could keep them in ‘the world is just plain nice and simple’ bubble?

  2. Ice Beautiful March 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    My 4,5 year old daughter first was exposed to death when we stayed at my aunt’s last summer. Her son my cousin died from cancer almost 2 year ago now. My daughter saw my cousin’s photo and started to ask. Then I told her that he died. Since then we have conversations about it from time to time. I totally disagree that honesty is the most important thing and the best way because still remember all my fears and nightmares as a child myself. So my answer was that people die because it just happens. Sometimes people get old and die, sometimes people get sick and die. Sometimes it just happens. It is enough for her age now. Later we can develop the subject further. No lies no too scary details.

    • wonderlandbytatu March 5, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

      I never scared him…When my grandfather died, I was sad and I cried and he asked me why. I told him that he was very old and too weak so he died. I focused on the full life he had and told him that although he will not see him in person again he will always be in his heart.

  3. momtimes4 March 5, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Oh what a sweet child you have! It’s never easy to talk about death with little ones.

  4. ourlifeinaction March 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    Just reading that breaks my heart. My father passed away two years ago this May – very unexpected and I cried A LOT! I keep a picture of him in my car, in my home and in a locket I wear. My son often asks me “where is Papa?” He was 3 when this all happened so I tell him that Papa has gone to heaven to be an angel. He isn’t alone, he is with his mom and dad and we can talk talk to him when ever we want. This is such a hard topic no matter which way you approach it.

  5. nothingbythebook March 5, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    It’s a tough one. Good for you for not lying.

  6. memyselfandkids.com March 6, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    I would have stopped and not given extra info. I also would have brought G-d/religion to make death seem less scary.
    I am sure it would be a really hard talk either way.

    • wonderlandbytatu March 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      when my grandfather Opi (who he loved dearly) passed away when he was 4, I told him that although he won’t see him again that he is somewhere safe and nice and G*d is looking after him…When we pray at night he always mentions him as Opi in the sky!

  7. ramblingsfromamum March 6, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Oh T how heartbreaking and awkward for you to try and respond with clarity that a little mind could comprehend. You did well, maybe reassure him for a little while that all is well, I think children try to comprehend or get so terribly worried when they think that something will happen to their parents. I am sure there are books on dying for children, perhaps a thought? xxxx MM

    • wonderlandbytatu March 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      yes, it might be wise to check it out, maybe that would help a lot. A while ago he asked me (out of the blue) if I will die some day! I told him that yes, eventually I will die but that won’t happen for a long time. He panicked at first but he was comforted when I redirected the discussion to the fact that he will (probably & hopefully) first become a dad and I will become a grandma. He immediately started laughing when he pictured me as a grandma and the whole thing got forgotten. Humor, I think, helps a lot as well in this kind of situation as long as you use it wisely 😉 xxx thanks for your input MM!

      • ramblingsfromamum March 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

        You are welcome sweetness – hopefully it doesn’t linger with him as they can take on a great deal and sometimes not say what they are really feeling. 🙂 xxx

      • wonderlandbytatu March 6, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

        keep your fingers crossed for him, ok?? xxx

      • ramblingsfromamum March 6, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

        They are, he will be fine, just make sure it doesn’t linger. xxx

  8. elpida March 28, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Θα ακουστεί κλισέ αυτό που θα διαβάσεις αλλά πάντα όταν μιλάω στη χριστίνα για κάτι ή κάποιον που έχει πεθάνει συμπληρώνω ότι έχει πάει ψηλά στον ουρανό μαζί με τους αγγέλους και μας συντροφεύει από εκεί…μάλλον ούτε εγώ η ίδια δεν θέλω να αποδεχτώ ότι έχω χάσει για πάντα κάποιον αγαπημένο μου…πάντα ελπίζω ότι θα τον ξανασυναντήσω…είναι σκληρό να μην υπάρχει η ελπίδα αυτή…

    • wonderlandbytatu March 28, 2013 at 9:12 am #

      εγώ προσπάθησα να εξηγήσω στον Γιάννη ότι το σώμα πεθαίνει και το θάβουμε (το τελευταίο αναγκάστηκα να το εξηγήσω όταν με ρώτησε τι είναι η κηδεία), ενώ η ψυχή συνεχίζει να υπάρχει. Τον άνθρωπο που χάσαμε δεν θα τον ξαναδούμε αλλά θα τον αισθανόμαστε πάντα κοντά μας και θα τον θυμόμαστε για τις καλές στιγμές ήμασταν τυχεροί να μοιραστούμε μαζί του.

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