Two recent classics:
Mommy to Gracie: “We can’t have a cat because Daddy is allergic to cats.”
Gracie to Mommy: “When Daddy dies, can we get a cat?”
Daddy to Gracie: “There are no more dinosaurs. They all died long ago, and their bones are in museums.”
Gracie to Mommy: “When papa dies, are they going to put his bones in a museum?”
I know Gracie’s going to read this someday, so I’ll say right now: I forgive you (Ha ha ;-)
Really though, keep in mind, she is four years old now. This is how kids learn, incrementally drawing connections between concepts as they come up in conversation. Yet I am often surprised by the reactions I get when I tell other people these stories. The last one above in particular had me laughing so hard when my wife called to tell me on the phone that I had to tell my coworkers in the neighboring cubicles, and two of them were disturbed. Come on, she’s FOUR! This is how you learn. And it’s hilarious to boot! Was it beyond the pale of office etiquette to discuss?
My Uncle Joe observed during our trip to California last year that my wife and I generally do not talk dumb to Gracie. We take pains to explain unfamiliar words when they come up and we usually don’t change subjects in front of her. And Gracie is a chatterbox and a half, and she reliably absorbs all of the language she hears. She is very adept at drawing connections. Nonetheless, the permanence of death is one concept that we’re not going into until she gets a little older.
Oh, and when I die, go ahead and put my bones in a museum and get all the cats you want, what the hell do I care? In fact, I think I’ll put that in my will.