September 30, 2008

Little Girl, Big Questions

Over the weekend, Mia and I visited a local pet store, one of her most favorite destinations. Halfway through the visit, she turned to me and said, "which thing are we picking out and taking home?" Um, hi baby jesus, send help and beer.

Here are the conversations that followed. I've provided some footnotes in order to more fully capture the moment and portray what was going on in my head.

Me: Well, we're not going to find and take home a pet today. We have to talk about pets, taking care of them and what kind of pet might be right for you.
Mia: I want a dog.
Me: I know you do. But mommy's allergic to dogs.
Mia: But. But. But we can wrap the dog up in something and keep it away from mommy.
Me: That's a great idea, sweetheart, but I'm not sure that would work or be something the dog would like. (1)
Mia: Okay. We could get a bird. Or a fish.
Me: Well, both of those sound like good ideas.
Mia: I think I want a fish.
Me: Fish are fun but you have to take care of them. And you should know that sometimes fish get sick and they don't live as long as birds or dogs.
Mia: We'd just have to get a new one.
Me: Right. I wouldn't want you to be too sad.
Mia: It's okay. Like if Uncle E's dog dies, they'd just get a new Biscuit.
Me: Kinda. But they'd probably be pretty sad.

Later that evening I discovered Mia in the bathtub furiously cleaning all her bath toys.

Me: What are you doing, sweetheart?
Mia: I'm cleaning all my toys. If you don't take care of them, they die. (2)
Me: No, Bean. Toys don't die. Only living things can die.
Mia: Like dogs, and cats, and people?
Me: Right.
Mia: Are you going to die? (3)
Me: Yes, Bean. Eventually but not for a very long time.
Mia: Am I going to die? (4)
Me: Yes, sweetheart. In a long long time but it's so far away that I don't ever want you to worry about that.
Mia: I think I want to skip dying.
Me: I think I want to too.
Mia: We can both skip dying.
Me: That would be great Bean. I think we all have to die but I'd like for us to skip it if we could.

And later, while braiding her just-washed hair, she broke out another question.

Mia: What happens after we die? (5)
Me: I don't know.
Mia: Does Mommy know?
Me: No, Bean. Nobody really knows. It's a mystery.
Mia: Why's it a mystery?
Me: Well, lots of people think they know but I'm not sure they're right.
Mia: Daddy, why was King Triton mad when he found out Ariel had gone to the surface?
Me: That's more like it.

You see what I mean? These were tough questions. I can only hope that answering them honestly doesn't somehow backfire on me. What are the toughest questions you've ever faced?

(1) Or survive.
(2) Hello, heartbreak.
(3) Fuck. You're only supposed to ask that when I'm drunk or you're 30.
(4) If you keep asking these heart-wrenching questions, I might.
(5) What, I've got to tackle pets, death, god and the heavens all in one day?

Posted by Chris at September 30, 2008 6:29 AM

My neice asked me "how the baby would come out?", "would they have to cut me?" and "If they did cut me would they make it better?"

She's three years old......

Pol x

Posted by: Pol at September 30, 2008 7:06 AM

Why did Katie have to die?

Posted by: Maribeth at September 30, 2008 7:39 AM

Wow. You should have given her a packet of tampons and just completed the set all in one go!

Posted by: Loth at September 30, 2008 7:49 AM

That last question is the hardest.

King Triton was mad at Ariel for so many reasons- fear of humans, betrayal of her kind, etc.

I think if a kid asked me these questions, I would die.

Posted by: Caleal at September 30, 2008 7:50 AM

Yeah. Lots of life-changing questions around these parts as well these days. It's never easy, especially with the precocious ones, because while they're able to formulate the questions, the answers are totally beyond their capacity at this age.

Posted by: SciFi Dad at September 30, 2008 7:53 AM

Jeesh you have the triple trifecta here. She sure knows how to pick 'em doesn't she? For the record, I think you did a mighty fine job.

Posted by: Kate at September 30, 2008 7:57 AM

My (half) brothers used to ask me about heaven and death when they were little. As their mum was Christian I didn't want to disrespect what she was teaching them (even if I thought it was wrong) but at the same time didn't want to lie. I just cowardly went with the 'don't know' option everytime, although that's pretty much the truth so not really cowardly.

Posted by: Katherine at September 30, 2008 8:16 AM

Every time we take Grace to preschool we pass the cemetery by your house. We always get stopped at the light. And Grace always says "When I die, I will put up a headstone for me, to remember me." Kills me every time.

Posted by: Laura GF at September 30, 2008 8:32 AM

My eight year old just started in with the death questions recently as a family friend passed away. As much as I would like to think I am prepared for such questions, it is still heartbreaking and hard to watch someone so young deal with that issue.

Posted by: Jeff A at September 30, 2008 8:36 AM

Wow, she got you with all the good ones! Hope you popped open a beer after that. I think your answers were as good as they could have been.

Posted by: diane at September 30, 2008 8:47 AM

She's a smart girl. One thing I've learned about my kids is that they are smarter than they seem, and honesty is the only way to go. Also, they tend to take it with less heartache than adults do because they don't have all of the emotion behind it. It's just facts from Daddy for the most part. The sadness comes with facing death head on, and luckily most kids are sheltered from that.

Posted by: Brad at September 30, 2008 9:07 AM

Oh, man. I love how she bounces from life's greatest mysteries to Disney cartoon plot points. Seriously, though, I think you handled yourself pretty well.

Posted by: Fraulein N at September 30, 2008 9:10 AM

Sounds like you handled it really well. That's the great thing about kids - we expect these conversations about where babies come from and where do I go after I die to be sooo traumatic and they move on to the next topic like it's totally no big deal. I'm trying to take my cues from my kids and talk about them like they're any other topic.

Posted by: Shannon at September 30, 2008 9:12 AM

Hardest question lately from my daughter? "Why can't I play with LGH?"

LGH stands for Little Girl From Hell. I blogged about her, will spare you all here. :) I'm pretty sure it would be wrong for me to answer "Because she's an evil fucktard!"

For the record, you handled Mia's questions great!

Posted by: js at September 30, 2008 9:22 AM

I got Daya a fish a while ago. A betta. She named it Fishie.

One day (last month I think?) Fishie jumped out of his bowl and committed unintentional suicide. (Bettas do that sometimes)

Daya never even noticed. In fact, she still said goodbye to him every morning.

Maybe a week later I got a new fish.

We call him Fishie, too.

Seamless death. Why can't it all be like that.

Posted by: jessica at September 30, 2008 9:35 AM

Wow, she really knows how to throw them curveballs huh? It always amazes me the things kids come up with.

Hardest question has got to "how does the baby get out", which I dodged b/c I didn't want to answer the question I knew would follow: "how'd the baby get IN?" :-\ yikes! lol

Posted by: Kris at September 30, 2008 9:40 AM

I've been asked most of those questions, especially when their grandmother Carol was dying. The girls were much older than Mia but still it was hard.

I may have said this before but my method, such as it is:

1. Give age appropriate, brief answers.

2. Never lie - they will find out.

3. "I don't know" is an acceptable answer. When we talk about what happens after death, I say "some people believe 'this'; others believe 'that'. When you are older, you'll decide for yourself what you believe.

Meantime, they believe in a heaven where they will see their grandmother as well as an assortment of cats.

Get used to it and be grateful she's asking. While you're at it, give yourself an "attaboy" for keeping the lines of communication open It's hard but it will pay off big.



Posted by: Ann Adams at September 30, 2008 9:53 AM

Wow, she really had you cornered there! She is a sharp kid though, you've got to give her that. I don't think I would have thought to wrap a dog up to keep it away from someone who was alergic at that age. I hate to think of the questions you're going to get in a few years!

Posted by: Dianna at September 30, 2008 10:38 AM

I've always wondered why King Triton was so mad about it to...Ariel was just curious :).

Those are some insightful questions!

Posted by: Mitzy at September 30, 2008 10:43 AM

Way to handle the questions, Chris! I like the skip dying part. Very cute.

For some reasons, her questions about death just reminds me of the Boy in Cormac McCarthy's The Road. (I'm half way in right now...)

Posted by: oakley at September 30, 2008 11:16 AM

When it comes to tough questions and kids, I say honesty is the ONLY policy. It will not backfire on you if you're true to your heart and beliefs and will give her something to stand on when she starts developing her own beliefs. Wow. Too many questions in one day. Exhausted you must be.

Posted by: k8 at September 30, 2008 11:41 AM

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition... or the Bean Inquisition.

Posted by: Poppy at September 30, 2008 12:05 PM

Um... so far it's been "Mama, why can't I show my goodies to the boys? ...Who CAN I show them to?" Personally, I'm more comfortable with questions about death.

Posted by: Amy at September 30, 2008 12:08 PM

Wow. That came up faster than I thought. But we knew it would come eventually.

You did good. :)

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at September 30, 2008 12:15 PM

"Why did you and Daddy get divorced? How come when Jojo and I don't get along you give us a time out and then we have to hug and make up? How come you and Daddy can't hug and make up?"

Really - I prefer the death questions.

Posted by: Mindy at September 30, 2008 1:27 PM

I think it's so great that you are honest and upfront with Mia, even if it does provoke totally heart-wrenching questions from her. It can only be a positive thing that she has an understanding of it now, rather than the kids whose parents tell them their dog went to live on a farm and then someone in their family dies and they have no clue how to deal with it or even comprehend it.

I really do think it's great that you have these conversations with your daughter. Without wanting to come across all patronising - well done :)

Posted by: starrynite at September 30, 2008 1:47 PM

All those milestone questions in one day, yipes! I think you did a fantastic job answering them all.

I remember having a talk about death with Rachel. Walking to the park one summer day with a 4-year-old Rachel, holding hands and swinging our arms back and forth, she looked up at me and said, "Mummy, when I die, are you going to bury me in the back yard?". I stumbled a bit, caught off-guard, and started to formulate a response: Well, Rae, although everyone has to die sometime, you won't die for a very long time, and I will probably be dead before that....but don't worry, I'm not going to die for a long time either... I was starting to really sweat when I realized that she just wanted an answer to her question, not a complete treatise on death. So I answered her: "No, Rae, I won't bury you in the back yard". "OK", she said, starting to skip, "Can we go for ice cream after the park?"

Posted by: alison at September 30, 2008 1:58 PM

Mia sounds like such a smart little girl! I really love reading about Mia and what she says and asks. Monkey is about 6 months younger, so you always give me a little peek in the future. It's amazing how much they learn in just 6 months!

Are you going to learn Owen sign language like you did with Mia? We just started doing signs with Roo.

Posted by: Nadine at September 30, 2008 2:12 PM

Oh, wow. Toughest questions I've ever faced? NOTHING like that.

Sounds like you came out ahead, though. Good for you :)

Posted by: Angela at September 30, 2008 2:30 PM

Here's my toughest...Mommy, if the baby comes out your bellybutton, how did it get IN THERE? This was asked when my princess was four. Please send help.

Posted by: The Stilettomom at September 30, 2008 2:39 PM

my kids ask me all sorts of questions about my dad who died when they were 13 months old.
the quest6ons take my breathe away, I almost always have no answer for them and usually ends with me crying.

But, they are so sweet and really just wnat to know.

Posted by: Tuesday at September 30, 2008 3:33 PM

Agh! They are supposed to ask questions you could totally bullshit the answers to, like; "Why is the sky Blue"?

Makes me pleased that my son doesn't string together more then 4 words at a time. Or say anything bigger then Funkalicious (freaking Backyardigans and that darn Garbage Trek) or Cappuchino (blame Daddy).

Posted by: sleepynita at September 30, 2008 4:36 PM

You did a great job with all her questions. However, I think I'm most impressed that you braided her hair.

Posted by: Kelley at September 30, 2008 5:36 PM

What happens to us if you and dad die at the same time?

Posted by: apathy lounge at September 30, 2008 5:47 PM

What happens to us if you and dad die at the same time?

Posted by: apathy lounge at September 30, 2008 5:47 PM

Honesty is the best policy. I truly believe that. Kids are smart. Very smart. And when they look to us for answers and we lie and they eventually find out we've lied they are then 12 and 13 and the questions are harder and they won't ask a liar for the answer then.

I was always honest with my son. At age 14 he came to me confused about his sexual preferences. The day that happened I was mildly shocked, however I realize he came to me because I've always answered him honestly and openly. The mere fact that he came to me with such a difficult burden he was carrying told me I was right to be honest.

Now keep in mind...when he was 3 and asked where babies came from I lied and said "the stork" because he wasn't old enough to remember what I said. At age 7 when he asked again I copped to the truth. It was hard...but it was so so worth it. I am not seen as a total sham and liar to my now 15 yr old son. So totally worth it.

You did awesome.

Posted by: Kristy at September 30, 2008 6:58 PM

I would answer your question, but I think my heart melted somewhere around "I think I want to skip dying."

Posted by: Jessa at September 30, 2008 7:07 PM

So am I the only one who saw the abandonment factor and the "what happens when we die" thread completing itself in the Ariel-King Triton question? Because that was a completely seamless line in her questioning to me. Kids make sense to me, I guess.

You're a good dad. She's a good girl. So glad you're spending as much time together as you have.

Monster hugs to Mia and Owen.

Posted by: alektra at September 30, 2008 7:18 PM

I think I want to skip dying, too.
You did great!

Posted by: Rebecca at September 30, 2008 8:10 PM

Wow those first questions are rough! but I do love the last one ;)

Posted by: Heather at September 30, 2008 8:42 PM

Wow! I'm not a parent yet, but I think you answered those really well! Thank god she stopped where she did because Lord knows she might have gone into the "where do babies come from" line of questioning next.

Posted by: Katie at September 30, 2008 9:19 PM

IT's funny how their brains work. Death and god were biggies with us -- atheists.

Posted by: Nat at September 30, 2008 10:39 PM

"Mommy, how can you be having a baby if you aren't married?" Answer had to be carefully crafted around explaining without expressing my opinion of his stepmother as a spiteful prig of a woman (who sent him home from a daddy weekend with this question in his little head) and why sometimes you have a baby because you want to have another baby, even though you don't want to have another husband.

This morning's questions were so much nicer. "Mommy, what in my yogurt? Does it have yos? Does it have gurts?" Ah, so much more fun. : )

Posted by: OS at September 30, 2008 11:25 PM

Last week my husband hunted and shot a moose. We had video of it, but only the afterfact not the actual shooting. This was the conversation:

3yr Old: Why is the moose laying down?
Daddy: Because Daddy shot it.
3yr Old: Why you shoot it daddy?
Daddy: So we can eat it.
3yr Old: (Scrunching up nose) Eat it?
Daddy: Yeah, you like Steak don't you?
3yr Old: (Looking confused)

He kept asking why the moose was laying down and the only way I could get him to stop asking was to just tell him that the moose was tired.
I was very scared with this whole conversation.

BTW. Kudos to you. You do a fantastic job explaining things to Mia and explaining them to us in a very humorus way.

Posted by: Samantha at October 1, 2008 12:15 AM

told you it was fun.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at October 1, 2008 12:18 AM

Hard questions, and good answers! The toughest ones we faced occurred when our son was about 12, took the DARE program in school, and then asked, "So did you and Dad do any drugs in the 70s." Um...

Posted by: Bozoette Mary at October 1, 2008 10:46 AM

I think you did a great job answering those tough questions. The best way is to be honest, so I applaud you for it.

Posted by: Shevonne at October 1, 2008 1:44 PM

Honesty is always the best policy. My Mum was always very honest with me, and look how I turned out... ;)

Actually, I asked her how babies were made before I turned 2. She answered me honestly, then I asked if I could watch. She told me that this was probably not appropriate!!!!

Posted by: Talking Budgie at October 2, 2008 2:31 AM

My daughter asked me if her "biological sperm donor" loved her when she was little. He left when she was only 10 mos old.

BTW, your answers were wonderful. They were all very difficult questions to have to answer.

Posted by: Tinac at October 4, 2008 12:12 AM

Uuh... maybe one of these would tie Mia over until they make all dogs hypoallergenic or she decides to drop the situation?

Posted by: Caleal at October 5, 2008 1:51 PM