15 February 2010

Existential crisis

I put the girlie to bed and settled in to watch some of the Olympics, as one does these days. A little while later, she crept downstairs; I walked her back up again. As I tucked her in for the second time, she began wailing:


I don’t want to grow up. I want to be six forever and ever. I don’t care if my friends grow up. I don't want to die. Granny died. I want to stay six. I don’t want to grow up.

How can’t I grow up?

I don’t want to grow up. I don’t I don’t I don’t.

How don’t I grow up?

Deep sobs, many tears, much snot.  Me, snuggled up next to her, feeling at a complete loss. Everyone grows up, everyone dies. How do you assuage the fears of the six year old, when no one wants to grow up, no one wants to grow old, no one wants to die?

23 comments:

slouchy said...

Augh. Hard question. I guess (deep breath) you really can't. You give hugs and kisses and comfort. That's what you can do.

jo(e) said...

I can remember feeling that way when I was five years old. I cried and cried about going to kindergarten because I didn't want to grow up, didn't want life to change.

I still don't like change.

Harriet M. Welsch said...

That's tragic, and also terribly sweet. AJ has always run headlong at growing up. I'm the one who wants to stop time. But it doesn't work well for any of us, alas.

Libby said...

that's the age my son started to worry about his mortality (his words). He hasn't stopped yet, alas. At that age it was a little easier to redirect/distract him.

When I was about to turn five I decided to give up birthdays forever--I remember telling my dad I'd forego all birthday presents, forever, in exchange for eternal life. He talked me out of it--wish I could remember how!

susan said...

Those fears probably can't be assuaged--but the snuggles and hugs and kisses and words and love will help her know that those fears are normal, that she can have them and learn to live with/manage them, and that she's surrounded by love.

I do remember quite enthusiastically embracing a camp song about not ever growing up, too. So perhaps she'll one day channel those feelings into a perky camp song.

mayberry said...

So hard. At least the last time my son asked this kind of question, he changed the subject himself afterward. (To a discussion of some dumb kids' movie, if you want to try that.)

Pinky said...

You just need to tell her that, when she grows up, she can play all the Nintendo DS she wants. And wear high heels. And eat ketchup on everything.

the queen said...

This child needs a bedtime reading of The Monkey's Paw.

Julia said...

All you can say is that she has a LONG, LONG time to be six, and yes, it's a great age and you love having her as a six year old and can't imagine her any other way. And by the time she's seven, she'll probably be ready to be seven. (Remember how when she was five she was so eager to have her birthday and be six?)

And it's okay that she doesn't want to grow up -- a lot of people feel that way -- and she will, in some way, always be your little girl. You will hold her and snuggle her and love her for as long as she wants, no matter how old she is.

And yes, death is scary, but it's also natural. To everything there is a season... and chances her season for that is probably so far, far away that by the time she gets there she will barely remember being six.

And you love her for always and always.

And then you go into your own room, and cry. Because there are some things mommies can't fix, and it really hurts to see your child suffering.

FreshHell said...

I don't know. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Woman in a Window said...

ummm...
my daughter railing against getting a period. NEVER NEVER NEVER for for her, that is the gateway to womanhood. and for her, womanhood sucks. Gee. What am I teaching this child? How?

There is always a case of the buts...but your friends, but all the good things you will learn and experience. Oh, and too, the snuggling. There is always the snuggling.

xo
erin

Imperatrix said...

Hugs and snuggles, yep. It's heartbreaking when kids go thru issues that we can't solve for them -- you just want to put on your supermom cape and say, "Stand back! I'll take care of this one, sweetie!" But we can't.

Did grandma die recently? I remember the book Freddie the Leaf being the go-to book of choice in the late 1970s/early 1980s to help kids deal with the idea of death.

And, to Woman in a Window: My Impera went thru that very same thing. She didn't like her period, getting breasts, etc. Mostly because she had a group of 4 boy buddies, and once she started changing (and they were changing, too), get-togethers weren't the same anymore. She was no longer "one of the guys". OTOH, her younger sister was thrilled to pieces to get her period, and she kept asking us if we saw hips -- b/c curves was the second big thing she was looking forward to.

niobe said...

I vividly remember wanting to stay six forever and ever. My mother used to call me Peter Pan.

Here's what I used to tell myself when I was six-ish, to make myself feel better: One day, I'll be dead, I won't exist any more. But I already know what it feel like not to exist, because for hundreds and thousands of years before I was born, I didn't exist.

And those hundreds of thousands of years before I was born didn't bother me at all. So the hundreds of thousands of years after I die won't bother me either.


ymmv

Kelly said...

I like what niobe said.

de said...

I clicked over for the comments of others, and was not disappointed. Happily, we haven't had anything like this yet. The closest thing has been my son asking me if I will live a long, long time, which is way easier.

Bibliomama said...

I like what niobe said too, but I wouldn't try it on my kid, because it never works for me :) In fact, Eve used to burst into tears when we talked about something that happened before she was born -- we're not even at the other end of things yet. Motherhood -- not for the faint of heart.

Life in Eden said...

You've gotten good advice. All I can say is hugs and kisses. This was so touching.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It's a tough realization--and we all face it sooner rather than later.

jenn said...

oh, I don't envy you that discussion. it's got to be done, but it's never easy...

Marilynne said...

Well, you can hide your little girl deep inside and bring her out once in a while to just play.

As for dying. Put the thought aside. Dying is for later.

Theresa said...

I remember that question.

phd in yogurtry said...

Aww. You do just what you did. You hug and hold and let the tears fall and know that tomorrow she'll be okay.

abby said...

now I'm crying. I don't want to grow up either.