Thursday, December 6, 2012

Agnostic Parenting Fail

I've blogged before about the difficulties I anticipate with raising an agnostic child. Most of my concerns centered around the BIG questions - where does life come from, and what happens when we die. Those conversations have become more and more common, and C is apparently most comfortable discussing the issue on the drive to and from school. It all started over the summer. There's nothing quite like being blindsided at 6:30 on a Monday morning by the voice from the backseat asking "Mom, does everyone die?"

Cue the anxiety and panic attacks.

I knew this was coming, I had read articles and books and stories in preparation. Yet, when my small child finally brought up the topic, I froze. "He's too young!" the voice in my head wailed. "Why can't he just stay innocent forever?"

But obviously, that's not an option, as time marches on. So I stalled and stuttered and finally managed to spit out an answer, but of course a simple "Yes, everyone dies" wasn't good enough, because then I was hit with the "But WHY? WHY does everyone have to die?"

And then I had a lightning strike moment - I told him to think about it like taking turns (a relevant comparison, as it was the focus in school at the time). There's only so much room on the world - only so much space, only so much room, only so many resources - so when people get really old and they've lived their long and full lives (hey, don't beat me up for emphasizing old and looooooong lives. He was only three) then their turn is over so that there can be more room for all of the new babies to be born and to take their turns to live their lives in our world. I tried to frame it as a circle of life, and I swear I could hear the strains of The Lion King soundtrack in the background.

The explanation must have made good sense to him, because he seemed satisfied by the idea and the "Why?" about death didn't really come up too many more times after that.

6 months later, driving home from school at 4:00 on a Thursday, and apparently the issue is weighing on his mind again. It started innocently enough, with him asking whether people can live to be 99 or 100 or more. We got past that part, and the definition of "old" not really being a set number. And then he asked more about when his sister is going to be born, and we talked about how she wouldn't be big enough to come out until May, and she was busy growing, blah blah blah. And I wondered briefly where his big little mind was going, but then decided he was just excited and curious.


He started asking about how people know when their turn is over, and how they know when it's time to die. And then - the inevitable question - "Who is going to die when my sister is born to give her a turn?"

Well what the hell do I do with that?

I'm ashamed to admit that I kind of side-stepped the question, mumbled something about it not quite working like that, and distracted him with the promise of Orange Leaf for dinner.

I'm hoping that little trick bought me at least a week to come up with an explanation.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing C's questions.  I waiting to read your answers in a future post.  I can not guess what you believe.  Myself I would go the route of the cycle of life starting with the example of plants and how other life depends on the death of other life.  It's a big cycle with many unknowns.



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