Some of my favourite conversations start like that.
"So, Mum ... I was thinking... You know that kid in school, Gibberjabber the 3rd? Well... he was talking about ghosts and, like... Do you think that it’s possible for dead people to reach back through things and, if they do… Can we see them?"
I turn slowly from the sink and face my son. He is staring at me wide-eyed and worried, a piece of apple paused half way into his mouth. I turn slowly because I don’t know how I am going to answer these questions. I can’t even compute half of what he just said.
"Okay, honey, slow down. GibJab3 said ghosts can reach through the worlds and touch us?"
"Ummm, ya, basically. And you know I am already scared of the dark..."
"Okay, honey… Oooookay…"
I turn back to the tasks at hand. I roll meat slices into sandwich bags, slice apples for snacks, find cheese samples....take a deep breath in between the slicing and packing…
I think. I have to handle this sort of thing carefully. Some of my ideas of the truth I am saving until he is older and less sensitive and prone to bad dreams and night fears. My child has an imagination. He will hold onto a scary thought and run with it for hours, calling me back to his bedroom numerous times if I let him…
Where are we? Right…
I only have to answer life-altering questions that could change this tiny human for whom I am responsible forever.
"Honey, it is true - Some people believe that there are spirits of people who die and continue to… well, hover around in our world."
I look over at him to gauge his reaction. His reaction will decide where I go next. He is looking a bit worried, mouth scrunched sideways tightly.
"Maybe there are,” I continue, “but I don’t believe there are. I think they are just stories like the other fairy tales and made up stories we read."
"So when people die do they really go someplace?"
"Where do you think they might go?" I ask.
"Some people say heaven, right? Where is that?"
"Honey… That is another one of those things, like God. There are things some people believe in, and others don’t. It's the idea that is really important to most people."
"It’s not important to us though, is it, Mum?"
I look down at the lunch box in my hands. Why these questions, why now? Questions about how pumpkins grow (it was just Halloween) or how we get to space would have been easier. At least I can google those.
"No, honey. I don’t believe in God… but before I decided that, I had to do a lot of thinking."
"I don’t either,” he answered, following my lead as a seven-year-old will. “But is there heaven?"
"Well…" I sighed.
I didn’t have to answer. Thank God… Well, thank fate and/or randomness that my kid is savvy. I stood back and watched as he answered his own question.
"How could there be a heaven? I mean, there are all those stars. They go on for forever, right?"
"That’s right, honey."
He laughs, inquisitive eyes showing a mere hint of the light of the multitudinous neurons firing madly in his young brain.
"I mean," he continues, "we might as well believe that we all go down to the Underworld like in the stories. Although, isn't that something else grownups believe?"
I laugh a little too loudly. Why DO grownups believe in all this stuff when we work so hard to show children that their fantasy worlds are not real?
This is the thing. My son and I talk like this sometimes. I love it. Sometimes we talk about utter nonsense, like the possibility of teleportation and how convenient it would make life. That one came up while walking home in the snow from school. His exact comment was, “Too bad teleportation isn’t a real thing. We wouldn’t have to walk all over the place anymore.”
Other times he catches onto these ideas, these BIG ideas... They even make me think. And despite me grappling with the answers, I hope we will be having these conversations for a long time to come.
Written by Mummy Showawa and mildly tweaked by Molly Billygoat.