The other night, after reading stories and turning off the light, I settled down to snuggle DD while she drifted off to sleep. Instead she burst into tears. When I asked what was wrong she said “mama, what if you died? I’d be all alone. I’d have no mama!”. From there we proceeded to have a long discussion about her fears of me leaving her by dying.
I blame the Lion King for this.
Last month we were at the library, and on impulse I grabbed The Lion King DVD. I remembered how much I’d loved the music, and briefly noted that a parent gets offed in the movie, but given that she’d made it through The Land Before Time without any trauma I thought it would be okay. But it just goes to show you how quickly children change in these formative years. It just so happened that watching James Earl Jones’ lion character get stampeded by a herd of deranged wildebeests occured around the same time that her brain was able to connect the dots and ask the logical question: what would happen if mama died?
I felt guilty about renting that movie for some time. I’m sticking to Blue’s Clues and Elmo’s World until she’s 10!, Id’ say to myself. But after talking to my friend K I realized that it would have happened sooner or later, and Disney was just the catalyst. K lost a grandfather last summer and her eldest went through a similar process, first he got the “logistics” of death: living thing dies, living thing is gone. Later he figured out the implications of this with respect to his own circle of loved ones, and the fact that Great Grandpa really was gone for good. I thought DD had grasped the implications of death when we had an incident related to the death of a neighbourhood cat. But I guess there was more to process. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Spacemom’s recent post about her DD processing a rather overwhelming theatre experience. It’s fascinating to me how children do this, but it’s also difficult to watch at times.
I could rant on and on about how evil Disney is because every freakin’ kids movie they put out seems to have a parent or two DIE in the first few minutes (what sort of sicko freak writers make these films, anyway?)…but that’s a topic for another post.
It broke my heart to hear DD voice her fears. Because truth be told, my deepest fear is of leaving my children while they are still young. When I think about the level of attachment I have to them, the fact that, as their mother, I am their rock, the centre point from which they look outwards towards their universe…it frightens me to contemplate how devastating and psychologically damaging it would be for that rock to one day up and disappear, never to return. No, I think I’d rather have my child die (then at least I could go and kill myself afterwards) than destroy the foundation of their world by disappearing for good when they most need me.
No wonder DD has been clinging to my legs and crying hysterically whenever I leave the apartment without her.
And oh, I how wanted to promise her I wouldn’t die! How desperately I wanted to ease her fears by reciting some fantasy about Heaven and being reunited after death. But I don’t believe any of that. I did pay lip service to the fact that different people have different ideas about what happens after you die, but DD dismissed those – the truth is, she didn’t want to be told that death is nothing to worry about. She wanted and needed some validation of her fears of me leaving her.
Watching your kids grow up is hard sometimes.