“I don’t know, Honey. Some people think there was a guy named God who made us.”
“But then who made God?”
“You’re very smart, you know.”
“Hmmm… let’s Google it.”
Me: “Did I ever tell you about the time Daddy and I played an April Fool’s prank on all our friends?”
Me: “We told them we were adopting a baby from China, and her name was Fu-Ling.”
Sutton: “Like ‘fooling’?”
Sutton: “It sounds like a Chinese name. That’s funny!”
My (real) daughter in 2015, outsmarting most of my friends in 2004.
Happy birthday, Fu-Ling.
“Daddy, let Santa know that if he buys me that Ariel toy I asked for, I’m going to marry it.”
“You can’t marry it. Don’t you remember last week when you married that stick you found in the street?” (Yes, this happened.)
“Oh, we broke up.”
“What? You’re only 5. You can’t already be on your second marriage!”
“No, it’s my third marriage.”
“What? Who did you marry the second time?”
“And you divorced it?”
“You’ve been married to two sticks?! And now you’re getting married again? You can’t get married so many times!”
“I’m going to be a man-izer when I grow up.”
“That song is called ‘Womanizer’, and — wait, you know exactly what that means, don’t you?”
“Yup. I’m going to be a man-izer.”
“Honey, I don’t think we’ll be listening to Britney Spears anymore.”
“Daddy, I know how to spell boo.”
“That’s close, but not quite. Try again.”
“Daddy, I’m right. Boo is B-I-I.”
“No, Honey. Boo is spelled B-O-O.”
* * * * *
Read my Biik.
Me: “That’s great. What kind of ride?”
Bennett: “It’ll be for babies.”
Me: “Good idea. They don’t have a lot of rides for babies. And what will it be?”
Bennett: “A Tower of Terror.”
Me: “Hmm… OK. Well, what are you going to call it?”
Bennett: “The Baby Tower of Terror.”
Me: “How is it going to be different from the regular Tower of Terror?”
Bennett: “It’s not.”
Me: “It’ll be just as tall?”
Me: “And just as dark?”
Me: “Don’t you think babies will be scared?”
Bennett: “Nope, because it’s for babies.”
Me: “What happens in your ride?”
Sutton: “You ride in a bow and you see all of Minnie’s bows and beautiful dresses.”
Me: “How long does this ride last?”
Sutton: “15 or 20 hours.”
“Am I funny?”
“No. You’re serious.”
“Are you funny?”
“Is Bennett funny?”
“So I’m the only serious one?”
“What about your teacher?”
“Oh, good. So it’s not just me.”
“But sometimes she’s funny.”
“Am I funny sometimes?”
“Who else is funny?”
“Um… the cup.”
“The cup is funnier than me?!”
“Can I play with the iPad now?”
We did a little bit of bargaining in the wake of my daughter’s fish’s death — if that’s what you’d call it when we offered to get her a new fish, and five seconds later she was thinking up names for it. Other than that, my kids skipped right over denial, anger and depression and went straight to acceptance.
This morning, we brought home Sutton’s new fish, Matilda, named after her favorite book, musical and second-favorite movie (behind James and the Giant Peach). Before we’d even transferred Matilda into her permanent tank, Sutton was thinking up names for the next fish she’d get after Matilda died. (The current front-runner for the next fish’s name: Sutton). Then, Bennett started thinking up names for the fish he’d get after his current fish, Sulley, died. (Current front-runner: Bennett).
Drew and I tried to keep the conversation about fish, but it didn’t take long before the kids made the connection that people die, too.
“Someday, I’m going to die,” Bennett announced. He sounded almost happy about it, like he was just pleased to be included in something that had been such a big topic of conversation for us. Little did he know he was uttering my worst fear out loud.
“Not for a long time,” we assured him. “A long, long, long, long, long, long, long [I actually think we’re still saying ‘long’] time.”
Sutton took it a step further. “Someday, Roald Dahl is going to die,” she said.
“He already did, actually. Quite a few years ago.”
“Oh. Well, I think he left some stories for after he died.”
“Yeah, that’s the nice thing about when people die. They always leave behind wonderful things for us, whether it’s their books or the memories they gave to all the people who loved them.”
There’s something both wonderful and incredibly disturbing about seeing my kids so at peace with death. I know they don’t fully understand what they’re talking about, and that’s part of what makes me so uncomfortable. I’m torn between changing the subject and shaking them violently and screaming, “Death is everywhere, and it’s permanent and horrible and it’s coming for all of us and sometimes, it’s all I think about! Fear death! Fear death!”
But I calm myself down, acknowledge what they say and try to move on, because they’re still processing what happened, and for now at least, I’m the one who has a problem with it, not them. It’s probably the right course to take, but it does require me and Drew to have our guts ripped out over and over from the things they come up with. Like this gem, from Bennett, which I typed down verbatim after he said it:
“The day before I die, I’m going to say goodbye to you guys and I’m going to do a happy dance and then I’m going to die and you’re going to drive me to the cemetery.”
I hear things like that coming from my 4-year-old’s mouth and wonder how I can go on. Then I realize what beautiful and amazing kids I have, and I picture my son doing his happy dance, and once again, I’ve forgotten about death and I’m thinking about life instead.
“Daddy, when I’m an adult, I’m going to grow a baby in my belly.”
“That’s great, Honey, and if that’s what you decide, then yes, you can.”
“How does it get in there?”
“How does what get in there?”
“The baby… how does it get in my belly?”
“How does it get in there, Daddy?”
“Well… um… actually, for Daddy and me… we had a doctor put you in.”
Giant sigh of relief.