Papa Don't Preach

Scott Kara's (rough) guide to being a father.

Papa Don't Preach: 'What happens when you die?'

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How do you explain death to kids?
Photo / Thinkstock
How do you explain death to kids? Photo / Thinkstock

Try to explain Anzac Day and its significance to a little person and wait for the fall out.

I didn't mean to bring it up, but on Tuesday when I told Mia that it was a holiday the next day I got the inevitable "Why?" - a four-year-old's automatic response even though sometimes they are old enough to figure out the answer by themselves.

Anyway, I can forgive Mia's intrigue on this one because a holiday in the middle of the week, with a day off kindy, and mum and dad being home is a rarity.

But then came the hard part of explaining what Anzac Day is. I shouldn't have gone there, and my wife shot me a look as if to say, 'What are you doing you absolute idiot of a father?' But I did. I went there.

"It's a day off to remember all those people who died during wartime," I said. Yes, rather dim of me because though she sort of knows what dying is, she wouldn't have a clue what wartime is. And what sort of an ancient word is wartime anyway.

What was I thinking?

She didn't care about wartime anyway, she just wanted to know "why did they die?"

With which I dug an even bigger hole for myself: "Because countries around the world started fighting against each other."

"Why were they fighting?" she said, screwing up her cute little face curiously.

And I suppose I could have given her the whole gory run down about trenches, fighter planes, and life during wartime (there's that word again).

But thankfully I pulled my dim little head in because there is such a thing as protecting a child's innocence. And she also seemed to lose interest. Or so I thought. Because later it brought up even more pressing and poignant questions about her and her sister Katie.

"What happens when you die?" she piped up during dinner. And, more to the point "Dad, where will Katie and I live?" she added quickly.

There was a simple answer to those questions which roughly went like this: we won't be dying anytime soon so you don't have to worry honey, and by then you and Katie will both have houses of your own.

But I tell ya, even though it's just a child's innocent and inquisitive mind working over time, it hits you with a few sharp, aching pangs of emotion because as a parent you always want to be there for your children.

And more than that, how exactly do you explain death to a little person? It's hard enough to fathom as a grown up, so almost impossible for a kid to understand. You don't want to shelter them from it, but until Mia (and Katie at a later date) are a little older and wiser, I plan to be a bit more careful when it comes to matters of death.

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