Thursday, January 5, 2012

sex, death and Santa

Photo from here...

There are some topics taboo in childhood. Topics which we attempt to ignore and gloss over for children. We feel they don't need to know....yet.
But when a child has had to bear witness to the truth, then what?
"I told Ryan all about how Daddy died," my five year old son, Briar, proudly told me as he sat on the toilet behind me. "That way, he'll know how it feels when his daddy dies."
I froze, mid-mascara stroke, attempting to come up with an appropriate reply. I was pleased that he was so comfortable communicating about such an emotion-filled topic. But I was also worried that his actions would concern Ryan's family when the little boy had multiple sleepless nights filled with angst imagining the death of his own father.
"Wow, honey," I answered after a long pause, "that was very.... thoughtful of you.....What did Ryan say when you told him about it?"
By now, Briar was absentmindedly staring at the pattern in the lino on the bathroom floor. "He just listened and didn't say anything much."
I was struck with the thought that, much like sex and Santa, death or mortality is a topic that parents want to have with their own children. They don't want some kid announcing it nonchalantly on the school bus or while playing Lego. It's hinted at in our culture...But rarely stated so bluntly as my sweet little boy did.
I can and will assure Ryan's parents that Briar's topic of conversation came from a kind and innocent place. And I know from knowing Ryan's parents that they will most likely be completely fine with this....But what about next time?
Will other parents shift in their chairs and glance at each other uncomfortably across the dinner table when their son or daughter comes home from school with questions about the imminence of their death? Will they be upset that the cat is out of the bag? Or will they be pleased that the topic has come up? Should I explain to Briar that this is something that parents want to talk to their little ones about when they are ready? Or should I just let Briar's well-meant lessons on life show others that families come in all shapes and sizes and backgrounds?


  1. I wouldn't worry at all about the subject of death. Be relieved that your kid wants to talk about it.
    I was so proud of having the sex talk and the santa talk with my kids. And then, last night... I sat and had a pornography talk with my 9 and 11 year old sons. Now THAT's something I hope that they don't share with others.... :/

  2. Kids say the darndest things! It is good that your son is able to verbalize the death of his Dad, I think that is really healthy for him. And, as long as you are in contact with his friends parents, it can only benefit other children. Sooner or later they will have a grandparent or parent or pet die, and maybe your son as opened their eyes a bit to the reality of death.

    My son, now in his 20's has a different view than yours obviously, but he still has a hard time talking about Dad being gone. Both my kids like to think if him as just being gone on another one of his many trips. And, he really is, only this trip has no end.