Monday, April 30, 2007

Death and the facts-centered child...

My son is a deep thinker. He's famous for asking questions that are difficult to answer, or worse, questions that HAVE no answer. He's not satisfied with no answer, and conversations with him can become very frustrating very quickly. Most of the time I'm not smart enough to answer his questions and we have to look it up on the internet. He's become so used to this that he's been known to ask things like, "Can we get on the internet and look up how many kids in China have kites?" Umm.. I don't think we'll find that on the internet babe, but we can try if it will make you happy. It's at least teaching him deductive reasoning, what with kite sales in China and assuming at least 80 or so percent of them were bought for kids, and a small percentage probably have more than one kite, and all that.

He's also a worrier. He worries constantly about so many things that seem silly to me. Often he'll ask if some little twinge or tweak or pain is "okay," as if he might have some terrible disease because he has a "weird feeling" in his arm, or foot, or whatever. It's difficult for me not to just blow off his concerns with, "You don't need to worry about that." (I had an obstetrician that did that and I hated it.) I've told him that the human body is weird, and can do all sorts of weird things, and as long as it doesn't happen all the time or hurt, it's probably alright. What he really wants to know is what is causing this strange feeling? Why do nerves work in such strange ways, when there's no real problem? Stuff there aren't real answers for. The boy is going to give himself an ulcer. So, in order to help reduce the worry, we discuss every single one of his (ridiculous, petty, silly) concerns as thoroughly as possible. He often worries as he lays there in bed trying (not) to sleep, until he's so worked up he couldn't possibly sleep at all. Tonight he came out of his room crying and worrying about death.

Chad has never liked funerals. He becomes very upset just being in a funeral parlor, regardless of whether he knew the deceased. When we visit the cemetery, he doesn't get out of the car. He's not afraid of bodies, but is bothered by the idea of death altogether. Tonight he was upset because there was NO ANSWER about what happens when you die. I offered as many things as I could think of as possible solutions, but none of them comforted him. "You know when you first saw the roller coasters and how scary they looked?" I asked him. "But then when you rode on it, it was really really fun? Maybe death is like that. It seems scary because you don't know what it will be like. But maybe when you die, you'll find out it's fantastic." We talked about Heaven, and how one of the good things about believing in God and Heaven is so you don't have to be afraid of what you don't have answers for. It was a very nice discussion about religion, but it wasn't helpful in making him feel any better. We talked about ghosts and people who claim to speak to spirits. We talked about reincarnation. None of it helped though, because nobody can prove that stuff either. I very firmly believe that even if I raised my son in strict religion, he would grow up to be an atheist. Chad is not comfortable with faith of any kind. He needs good, solid answers.

Being a Just The Facts Ma'am person is great if you're a scientist or mathematician or something. But for now, he's a child. Not knowing is scary. I told him how my grandmother said she was visited by my grandfather after he died, in all seriousness and with a completely straight "I'm not bullshitting" face. Strangely, that calmed him enough to go to sleep. The thing is, I actually believe that story about my grandfather, but I always keep a Nobody Knows For Sure attitude with my kids about stuff like that. I'm starting to wonder if I've done the wrong thing by approaching the unknown this way. I'm not avoiding discussing my beliefs, I just am not too sure what I believe or don't believe myself. And I want my kids to choose for themselves. The problem is Chad can't make a choice unless he has the facts. And there just aren't any facts here.

Cripes. Where's the owner's manual for this kid?


Deanna said...

He sounds just like Allison!

Robinella said...

I feel your pain! I have such a boy myself. Just keep plugging along, eventually you'll find the answer, like your gma-gpa explanation. They are a wonderful handful, aren't they.