I remember awhile back, making a resource page for my community weblog, Band Back Together, about how to talk to kids about death. Totally uplifting, right?
Anyway, I broke it down by ages and stages, and while I can remember doing all of that (probably while listening to sad music or something), only one thing has really stuck with me: kids -- even small ones -- know more about death than we think.
Apparently, as my son proved, this is true. Only in a creepily morbid -- yet semi-hilarious -- way.
Now Alex, my 5-year old, has been lucky enough not to have to deal with death yet (knocks on wood), so we've never had to have a real discussion about why Great-Grandma is not with us (probably in part because between my husband and me, we have no grandmothers alive).
He's also one of the more thoughtful kids I know. He reminds me of me, if I had a penis and a fully-functioning brain, because he makes these random -- yet usually right -- connections.
For example, he thoughtfully asked me last weekend, "Are farts really just burps that come out of my butt?" Which led to a laughing fit I still haven't recovered from. Because, yeah, kid, they kinda are.
The other day, he had on his thinking face, which generally means one of two things: he's trying to con me into ordering him a pizza or he's about to make a hilarious observation about the world. This time, it was a bit of both.
"Mom," he said, all stone-cold serious, "why do they plant people?"
My head immediately went to Soylent Green, but soon I realized that his father would never allow him to watch it and I haven't ever seen the movie. (I know, I know -- it's a cult-classic. But trust me, I'd prefer watching dancing cat videos because HILARIOUS and not cheesy AT ALL.)
Alas, I digress.
I sat there for awhile while he looked at me, clearly expecting an answer. I considered Google, but realized that the answer I'd pull up was probably not one I could give a 5-year old.
"I mean," he interrupted my thoughts, which had, I don't need to tell YOU, taken a dark turn. "They just give nutrients to the trees and the grass and flowers to grow, right?"
It smacked me upside the head as to what he was talking about. He wasn't talking about BODY farming, he was talking about burying people after they've died.
"Yes, Alex," I replied, finally less freaked out, "some people choose to be buried after they die, and when they do, their body helps the rest of the world around it grow."
(I wasn't about to get started on the breakdown of the body because that's TMI for most people, ESPECIALLY those who are not yet over the age of 10.)
"Okay, Mama," he said, turning his eyes on, his con-man smile peeking from the corners of his mouth. "Now can we order a pizza?"
I gagged a little bit before saying, "No, sweetie."
Note to my children: THIS IS WHY MOMMY DRINKS.