Monday, December 8, 2008

Talking apocalypse and mortality with my four-year-old

Yesterday I somehow managed to stumble into a conversation with Ainsley about, as Dave put it last night, "the apocalypse and mortality." Whoops.

It started yesterday at lunch. Ainsley, who lately has been declaring her love for her sweet mommy every chance she gets, told me that she would love me "for a hundred million years." I then responded, in Guess How Much I Love You fashion, "Well, I will love you for a hundred million billion trillion years."

There was silence for a minute or so. Then it began. Clearly trying to process what life would be like in "a hundred million billion trillion years," Ainsley asked: "Mommy, will the earth ever disappear?" Upon hearing this question, my first impulse was pride -- wow, is my little four-year-old smart! My second impulse was to be lazy and punt the question to Daddy for an answer. Daddy responded, in equally lazy fashion, "No, honey, it won't ever disappear." I look at him and say, "Dave, you just lied to her!" (This coming from the woman who happy spins lies on a daily basis about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc.) Giving me a look of, "Okay, if you really want to go there ..." Dave then said to her, "Well, actually, yes, the earth will go away some day."

Further proving her brilliance, Ainsley responded, "What will happen to the people? Will there be a new earth?" I picked up the ball, and explained, "Yes, Ainsley, all the people will probably have found a new planet to move to by that time, so they'll go in a rocketship to that planet and live there."

Then it all went downhill. She asked, "Will we go on the rocketship?" I had to respond, "No, honey, we won't be here. That will be a long, long, long time from now, so we won't be alive anymore. Perhaps your great-great-great-great grandchildren will go on the rocketship."

This answer did not make her happy. With tears forming in her eyes, she said, "But I don't want to not be alive anymore! I don't want to not be alive! Are you just kidding?"

Only then do I realize that Dave had been right all along in trying to nip this conversation in the bud. The lies started pouring out to try and make her feel better. "Yes, honey, I was just kidding. We'll always be alive. We'll go on the rocketship to the new planet." "Will I get to take my stuffed animals?" "Of course." "What about our house?" "The rocketship will be really big so we'll be able to pick our house up and put it in the rocketship." "Will there be grass for us to put it on on the new planet?" "Definitely."

From there, I was able to distract her with a conversation about the Christmas cookies we were going to make that afternoon.

So there you go. An object lesson in how NOT to talk to your four-year-old about dying and the end of the earth.


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, that is so funny. (not for you, though, I'm sure) Simon understands so much as it pertains to bugs, but I don't know how much else. I've said things about not wrapping things around his neck because if you can't breathe you can't live. Anyway, remind me not to drink any kool-aid at your house... I don't want any part of your rocket ship! :)

Anonymous said...

Oops... you probably guessed the last comment was from Elena, since I mentioned Simon...