Thursday, November 22, 2012

Death: A Toddler's perspective

Teaching children about death is a touchy subject for some people.  I've heard of people who try to keep their children unaware of mortality for many years.  I never thought I'd keep it from our children, but it's not like we'd planned how to approach the subject before Disney intervened sometime during Maggie's second year, with some of her favourite cartoons.

First there was Mufasa in The Lion King...

Then Ray from The Princess Frog...

and Kerchak from Tarzan...

Disney really doesn't hold back!!  Neither do Bible stories.  The short story is, that at the tender age of not quite three, Maggie knows that people - and animals - die.  She knows it's sad, and that everybody misses them.  She hasn't known anyone who has died or anything - just that it's something that happens.  She doesn't really understand the permanency, but she seems to get the 'trying to save people so that they don't die!' thing.  It all seemed pretty straightforward.  

Until tonight.

When we were peacefully eating our dinner and the fly that's been in our house all day driving me insane started buzzing around our dinner table.  Soon James was out of his chair running around with a tea towel, and I was helping him spot it so he could get it.  Finally he got it, and with the now deceased fly in the rubbish bin, I sat with satisfaction down at the table (yes Mum, after putting the tea towel in the washing).  Obviously I wasn't thinking, because when Maggie asked, 'Mummy, where's the fly?', I immediately replied 'In the bin. Daddy finally got it, it's dead'.  Maggies eyes widened with alarm and dismay and she exclaimed 'Mummy, quick!  I need to help him!!  Get him out!  Get him out!!', and started to climb out of her high chair with some haste!

Oh no.

How do you explain that you just killed the tiny little fly she'd been watching with interest throughout the day?  The little fly that flew around the bathroom while she did her business and chatted to it?  How do you explain her father jumping up from the dinner table with a tea towel and running madly after it to inflict death upon it?!

I have never felt more guilty about the death of an insect.  So I looked at James "My goodness, Daddy!  Why did you do that???"

I honestly don't know if I'll be able to take part in a bug killing again :S  At least not for a while.


  1. LOL! Abby - that is so you!! Poor James must have been gobsmacked! :)

    I think death is best taught as naturally as possible, as part of the rhythm of life - because storing it up until children are older seems way too much of a rude shock. Murder, on the other hand.. Have you eaten any fruit lately?? :)

  2. Hahaha, naughty mummy and daddy! How could you kill a fly?! :P
    I, on the other hand, will be teaching Hallie that spiders are evil and meant to be killed and Daddy's job, as well as going to work etc, is to get rid of any spiders that might be lurking about and put them 'in the bin' too. Job done :) xo