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When You’re Dead, You’re Dead

When it comes to parenting, when you decide to just throw your hands up, it’s not always in defeat. Sometimes you’re just choosing to let whatever situation, statement or chain of events that has occurred, lie.

Picking your battles, if you will.

Example: Mikey walked up to me out of the blue a couple of weeks ago and said, “Hey, Mom, guess what?”

“What?” I answered. I was pulling stuff out of the refrigerator for dinner.

“You’re going to die before Dad because you were born first,” he said casually. And then he shrugged and walked away.

I stood there, dumbfounded, for a few minutes as many thoughts swirled through my head. The first was, “Gee, thanks, kid.” That was followed by the idea that I should tell him that’s not necessarily the case, as people died at all different ages and walks of life for many reasons. But I also appreciated his understanding of chronology and that, in theory, people get old and die.

Then I thought that perhaps this would be a good time to have a talk about death and what it means to be dead and that it can happen to anyone at any time… But he was playing with his action figures without a care in the world and I had chicken marinating and we had to be at swim lessons in an hour.

So I just let that teachable moment pass right by.

Well, then it seemed like suddenly everything was about “being dead.” I don’t know if it was his buddies at school talking about this, or maybe something on one of the shows he watches (despite the parental controls), but everything had death as a consequence.

“You have to eat your dinner or you’re going to be dead,” he would tell me.

“The person who doesn’t make this basket is going to die.”

“Mom, if I get you with a Nerf blaster, you have to lay on the floor with your tongue out cuz that means you’re dead.”

Finally, I realized I couldn’t sidestep the topic anymore. So one day after his reference to something or someone “being dead” or “going to die” I asked him, “Mikey, do you understand what that means, to be dead? That it’s final, and you never come back?”

“Yep,” he said, and refilled his Nerf device.

“That’s why we don’t call your toys ‘guns’ and ‘bullets,’ we call them ‘blasters’ and ‘darts.’ Because real guns can make someone dead for real, and don’t want that, right? Because then they would be gone forever, right?”

“Yep,” he said as he fired a dart right at my rib.

“No, Mikey, I’m serious.” I put down my weapon (rookie mistake!) and after taking a few more body shots, I got his attention and started the whole conversation about how everyone and everything dies and it’s OK because that’s how it’s supposed to be and you don’t have to be scared. But also while for many people that doesn’t happen until they are older, sometimes it happens by surprise…

And he really seemed like he couldn’t care less. So you know what, again, I just threw my hands up, quickly backpedaled out of the whole conversation, picked up my blaster and returned fire.

I honestly feel like sometimes we adults overanalyze situations. Maybe he wasn’t burdened by these heavy thoughts and I took the conversation to a place it didn’t need to go to. Or, maybe I should have pushed the issue farther. I’m not saying my approach was right. I never know if my approach is right.

I will say, though, that just like potty talk and making fart noises and all the other obnoxious things kids do, after a while of just letting all the talk about “being dead” fly, he eventually stopped talking about it so much.

Now, however, he’s moved on to pushing my buttons by using a word that is dangerously close to a curse word and that I don’t like him using but, again, I’m picking my battles.

At some point during the school year, Mikey came off the bus singing the pop song with the lyrics, “I’m good, yeah, I’m feeling alright. Baby I’m’a have the best freaking night of my life.”

The first time I heard him sing it I gasped and yelled at him. But then it would come on the radio in the car and he would get all excited and sing along to it. And then he would just be humming and mumbling it as he played independently.

And then, finally, I decided, freak it! If it’s good enough for the school bus radio, then it’s good enough for the Crocco Household! So now, Mikey is allowed to say that word only when he is singing that song. He can’t say it in any other context. The singer is allowed to say it because she is an adult, and adults can say whatever the H-E-double-hockey-sticks they want to say.

My hope is this song will also eventually lose its novelty and phase out, just like the death talk.

But in the meantime, now the whole freaking family is singing it because we can’t get it out of our minds.

But at least I’ll be put out of my misery first. Since, you know, I’m gonna die first.

Oh, and by the way, Mikey is 6 now.

Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 6-year-old. She can be reached at editorial@putnampresstimes.com.

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