Go to Jail, Go directly to Jail

My son really, really, really does not want me to go to jail. Or die.

Which is good, because I really don’t have any desire to go to jail. Or die.

He seems to think both are real possibilities and both could happen at any moment. I mean, he’s right about one of those…but still. I wrote about this over at DotMoms, but I need to post it again here, because I honestly don’t know how to answer him anymore. I think explaining to him only bad people go to jail helped relieve some fears. But the death thing? He flusters me daily. I just can’t bring myself to tell him anyone of us could be gone tomorrow.

My son is asking about death.

He wants to know if he will die. He wants to known when he will die. He wants to know how he will die. He wants to know what will happen after he dies. He wants to know if Mommy will die. He wants to know if Daddy will die.

When I was asked these deep questions by a not-quite 4-year-old, I paused. This was one of those moments when I needed to have my Mom act together. I was not going to get away with a, “Oh, just because…” answer.

It was during my pause that my son threw me for a loop. It seems he wasn’t so concerned about dying, but actually more concerned about being “alone” and “away from everybody.”

He wasn’t really worried about dying, he was worried about not being able to hug his mom when he needed it most.

Did anyone else’s heart just jump into their throats?

I, of course, assured my tiny worry wart that he would always have someone. I was vague. I was very non specific, and I choked back tears the entire time, knowing it wasn’t true.

I lied.

I wasn’t as concerned with the lie as I was the truth. One day he may be alone. One day I won’t be here. One day…

I think I liked it better when I thought he was obsessed with death.


  1. Heartbreaking, isn’t it…

    We’ve been having the death talk as well. My son, though, is very interested in death.

  2. I read your blog all the time and never have commented…but this hits close to home.
    My son as well (6yrs) is very concerned about dying and going to heaven first..who will help him, who will take him his bath there, etc. …having one of us die as well is another question of his. Very heartbreaking for someone at this age, because it is reality, but I couldnt imagine having to have my children grow up without me.

  3. Awwwww…..I think I’m going to cry now. That’s so sad, but sweet that he is so concerned about his Mom and Dad. I don’t know what I would say either.

  4. Did this start before or after your surgery? My son became obsessed with never being away from me, and couldn’t stand to be “alone” in his room without someone with hime for almost a year after my surgery. It was so sad that sad isn’t even a word that means what I felt. Sometimes being the grown up sucks! I want someone to tell ME what I’m supposed to say/do and yet I am the one expected to know what to say to reassure the kids.

  5. Our daughter had funeral outfits for every season for the first four years of her life. Unfortunately, we had 5 dear-hearts die in quick succession, including her grandfather, all three great-grandparents, her birthmother’s brother, and some family friends. Death became a pretty common topic.

    We approached it by saying that, just like everybody is born, everybody will die sometime. Usually, people get really old or have rare sicknesses that the doctors can’t fix, and their bodies stop working. We believe that their spirits are still with us, watching over us, guiding us, and cheering for us. We say her daddy and I have no plans to die for a very, very long time because we still have lots of parenting to do and we plan to see her grow up and have a wonderful life and to become grandparents (which, at our age, is pretty unlikely–we’re mid-40s, she’s 5).

    Our daughter also expressed concern about being alone, so we reinforce the fact that we’ve made specific plans with people who will take care of her and love her and make sure she’s ok, that she’ll always have the rest of our extended family–birth and adoptive–as her family forever, and that “family” can be made by choice so she’ll always have our close family friends with her. We tell her that we’ve done everything we can do to ensure that she’ll never be alone, that those plans are on file with the judge (she’s familiar with the importance of the judge so rather than explain the attorney and our wills, we just go with “the judge”), those plans also include that there will be enough money to take care of her.

    It’s a tricky one, making them feel secure without lying (“I’m never going to die”), letting them know that we’ve done everything we can to ensure they’ll always be cared for.

    Oh, and make sure you DO have your wills in order so that if you’re both taken out by a bus, they kids don’t end up at loose ends. Try to be casual or they’ll pick up on your stress and kids’ anxiety will only get worse.

    Good luck.

  6. That is really hard.
    I think when he’s older he might be introduced to death via fragile pet. (I know that sounds really heartless towards the pet.)
    I don’t have an answer for the alone part – just let him know there will always be someone who loves him very much no matter what.

  7. I say lie to him at this age. There’s no need to worry his little head with the big complexities of death. Just tell him that you & the Kaiser will always be there for him, and you will do your best to make sure nothing bad happens to him as well.

    From the preschoolers I’ve known, many hit a point where they start to understand the big world, and as a result begin to lose their feeling of security. At this point, I think it’s important to give them back that feeling of security and not worry about the details until they’re older.

  8. Wow. I’ll bet your surgery and your being away had a lot to do with that. Sweet Pea talks about death too, but has not thought it through like The Count. She explained to her stuffed cat last weekend that “when people die, they’re just gone. You can’t see them anymore because they’re just gone.” I seized the opportunity to ask if she remembered her great grandfather who died a year ago last September and she said, “yes,” and I repeated what she had said to her stuffed cat – that he died, and that’s why we don’t see him anymore.

    On the amusing side – we had a discussion about her paternal grandpa, who we never see because he’s a jackass – oh, and he lives in Mexico, too – and she told her cat, “Grandpa R isn’t dead, we just don’t see him.” Had the whole family in stitches for a week. :oD

  9. I forgot to ask – where did the jail idea come from?

  10. Awww. Yes, my heart went into my throat. And my daughter went through a period where she worried about death and being left alone, too. I guess it’s a developmental thing, and yeah, I agree with the other posters that your recent surgery may have sparked this realization a little bit sooner than it would have happened otherwise. My reaction has been much like yours – that I will be here for her forever. Even though I’m 40 years older than she is and so it’s not unlikely that she may have to deal with being left alone at a young age.

  11. 🙁

    Here’s hoping that this is one lie that won’t catch up to you for a very, very long time.

  12. Man, I teared up on that one. That makes me want to fly out there and hug him myself!

  13. yes, your surgery must’ve started these thoughts. I can emapthize with the Count–he must have been really scared. hope he’s feeling more secure now.

Speak Your Mind