|The setting of some of our best conversations.|
Last week, the kiddo and I had an interesting philosophical discussion in the fifteen minutes between day care and home that went from What is dead?, What is love? to What is lost and found?
I wasn’t really prepared for these questions, but I really wonder if any parent ever really is. I hesitated when he first asked me Mama, what is dead? because, come on, that’s a difficult topic to explain to a four-year-old. I have no problem being honest with the kiddo, but how do you actually make him understand that dead is forever when he doesn’t even understand the concept of forever? And I don’t have a religion to fall back on, where I can start explaining Heaven and Hell. A part of me kind of thinks that’s a little easier to explain. But maybe not.
And I’m not ready to bring up Reincarnation (which is a big part of my own belief system). I wanted to stay away from anything that could pigeonhole him. If he goes into Kindergarten talking about Reincarnation, his teachers are going to think we practice a certain religion. When the truth is, my belief in Reincarnation doesn’t come from a religious background. I was born and raised Catholic. I should believe in Heaven and Hell, but I just never really did.
So, what did I say? I told him that when you die, it is the end of your life. Your heart stops beating and your brain stops thinking. You close your eyes and never wake up. (In the rearview mirror, I could see him look out the window and nod, as if to say that makes sense). Afterward, your family and friends usually gather together and have a little party to celebrate the life that you lived. And then what happens? When people die, some of them get buried in the ground. Why? Because then there is a place where their family and friends can sit and remember the person. When other people die, their bodies are cremated, which means that they are burned into ashes. What are ashes? After something burns, there is a pile of ash, which kind of looks like gray dirt, leftover. The person’s family might put the ashes into a pot, called an urn, and place it somewhere special to them. Other people scatter the ashes in a place that was special to the dead person.
And that was pretty much the end of the conversation. He was quiet for only a moment, and then asked the next questions: Mama…what is love?
Love is a very powerful emotion. It’s when you have very strong feelings for another person; you care about them very much. There can be lots of different types of love, too. The way I love you is a lot different than you will eventually love your boyfriend or girlfriend. (Another nod) I love you, mama. Yes little monster, and I love you.
As I merged onto the freeway, only one exit until home, the little voice came again from the backseat. Mama…what is lost and found?
This questions was mainly interesting, in that I had no idea where it came from at first. I paused to think about it, and he piped up, Like in Corduroy. Of course! We just read Corduroy: Lost and Found the night before, where the bear Corduroy goes off to find Lisa a birthday present and he becomes lost.
So it was much easier to explain. Lost and Found usually refers to a place where you can leave things that are lost. So, if you were to lose Buddy in a store and somebody else found him. They would take him to the Lost and Found. And when we are looking for your lost Buddy, we go to the Lost and Found and – ta dah! – we find him.
He nods again and watches the world fly. And then, we are home.