Tuesday, September 08, 2009

on difficult conversations with my daughter

This morning on the way back to the house from the garage, after taking Clare to school, I nearly tripped over a dead baby squirrel. I think it must have happened while we were on the way to school, because surely I wouldn't have missed her (him?) if she'd been there on the ground before. Then again, it's morning, and I was still only half done with the first cup of coffee, and not all that observant anyhow. Clare didn't see her either, or, I'm sure, we'd have had another conversation about being dead this morning in the car.
She was missing a foot. I think one of the neighborhood cats must have gotten her.
A few weeks ago in the car on the way to Trader Joe's Clare asked me about being dead. I meant to blog it, because it was really interesting, but it was the SAHM week before school started for her and that meant zero computer time, and so I never blogged about it. And now I can't remember all the details. But I do remember that she asked 'what does dead mean?' and I struggled to find an answer that would make sense on a toddler level (while trying hard to drive responsibly and avoid a more immediate pragmatic demonstration). I settled on "it's when someone's body doesn't work anymore." That seemed to communicate okay. But of course, she was under the impression that this could be fixed and people could be made alive again--and somehow I was responsible for making that happen, or maybe Daddy, who's good at fixing things, or our doctor (very logical). So then I had to explain that being dead is different from being hurt or sick, which can be fixed, and when your body doesn't work anymore and can't be fixed, that's being dead, and that's why when people are dead they don't walk or talk or play and we don't see them anymore. 
Maybe it seems weird to you that I didn't go with "dead means being heaven" or "going to be with God" or use the word "soul." But I didn't.
What I did say, and what she clearly held on to as the take-home point of the exchange (she spontaneously informed Brent of this the next day, in a rather random context) is that God takes care of dead people. Being dead means God takes care of you. I don't know exactly what that means to her. Hell, I don't know exactly what that means, period. But that was the best I could do in this surprisingly sophisticated theological exchange with my three-year-old about what being dead means.
I think explaining sex would have been easier. After all, she's got the vocab down for all that.

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