Yesterday my son came home from school (pre-K) with the following game in mind: Let’s Get Dead (or something very similar to that). He’s only four. He has no concept about death or dying or anything of the sort. And it bugged me, a lot.
So I kneeled in front of him to have a talk.
“Where’d you learn that game, baby?”
“Who taught you the game?”
“T.” (Full name shall not be disclosed.)
(Insert here that said T is also the one who, during orientation, ran in and grabbed things out of other kids’ hands, and who, on an afternoon during pick-up, had a drink of water from the water fountain, only to spit it outside. He thought it was funny. His mom didn’t, but she had no control over him at that moment as he danced around her, laughing, and she tried to be stern with him.)
“Baby, do you know what that means? Being dead?”
“It means you’re not here anymore. If someone’s dead, they’re in heaven and we can’t see them anymore. And we miss them.”
“Star Wars is cool, with shooting and fighting.”
“But that’s not nice, baby. Shooting and fighting is not nice. And this game isn’t nice.”
“I like it.”
How do you explain death to a four-year-old? The only death my son has experienced was that of my father, and that was when he was almost six months old! He doesn’t remember!
I know my son will pick up things from other kids in his school. It’s inevitable and all I can do as a parent is try to take each of these moments as a teaching opportunity. And maybe I’m just being overly sensitive. Boys play fight all the time, don’t they? And we did watch Cars, which was a bit violent, though not really more than any other Disney movies (Kill the Beast! anyone?), and the parts that are questionable young kids won’t “get.”
But something about “let’s get dead” really scares me. I don’t like it because I see kids killing kids. I hear it in the news (school shooting or stabbing) and it breaks my heart. Because at what point do we say, oh they’re just being kids, and do we start paying attention?