Being Dad: Things they don’t prepare you for

I remember growing up more or less scared shitless about hell. I imagined this awful place to which I’d certainly be condemned for 1/ jerking off too much 2/ lusting after Gina So-and-So at Bible study 3/ stealing quarters out of the bottle in the living room (which curiously contained a frustrating majority of pennies) to head to the video arcade with 4/ lying about the jerking off 5/ perhaps choosing the wrong god between the protestant one, the catholic one, the islamic one, the buddhist one…so I was a little anxious. And then, when I thought deeper about it, it was more the fear of NOT EXISTING that flipped me out. Like peering over the edge of the abyss, that stomach-crushing feeling when in the downhill bit of a roller coaster, that vertigo would literally keep me awake semi-terrified. As an adult, I suppose I have stoically accepted life’s ultimate absurdity, but haven’t figured out how to explain that to a child.
My son is 5 years old and like most boys, crazy about fighting, Ninjago, castles, battles, Star Wars. Naturally, the concept of death appears in the role play, but I thought it would be more of a “he can’t play anymore” kind of thing. Actually, even at 5, it is already felt as something more permanent, more menacing. Two days ago, he asked me when I was going to die. I told him that it would be a long, long time from now, but he didn’t seem reassured. Is his consciousness already sensing the void? My in-laws unfortunately showed him all the Star Wars movies (I know, really bad idea but they didn’t listen). Now he wakes up every night around 1am with a nightmare. Darth Maur or Darth Vader, he tells me. Or perhaps it is just death that is haunting him.
Being an agnostic – not to say an outright atheist – I am wondering whether introducing some religion at this point wouldn’t help. Perhaps that is one of the great strengths (often overplayed!) of organized religion – it attempts to remove the mysteries of life and death by displacing the anxiety on god and one’s own personal faith. So, I still have to think about this.
There are many things I have figured out as a dad, this particular one is a real intellectual challenge that I was a little less prepared for than, say, sleep deprevation. In the meantime, I tell my son to sleep well and don’t worry, it’s way too early to worry about things like death when he has so much living to do!

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About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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2 Responses to Being Dad: Things they don’t prepare you for

  1. lili c. says:

    Lovely post cousin! I’d say, as your cousin, spiritual teaching of some sort for the little ones: YES! Religion? Please no. What I try to do with Cody is just explain what I believe, what I don’t believe, and sometimes when relevent, what others believe. You don’t have to label it or know all the answers, but speaking to him about what ‘other worldly’ things you do adhere to his key. Also now moral issues are coming in more, and I find it pretty complicating navigating those gray areas. But telling him not to worry, as you so paternally do in the end of your post, is to me a spiritual tenet in itself.

  2. Pingback: Quitting Smoking: Causes of Addiction and Some Advice | Fino's Weblog

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