I vividly remember asking my mom about death when I was a child. She told me the usual things parents say in that situation: Death is natural, everyone dies, that’s the way nature works, etc. Parents say these things to reassure their children because they know that if they’re honest with them, their kids would probably hurl themselves under the next school bus they see. “Holy shit, death is fucking scary! I knew this guy who was just walking down the street when, WHAM! A pit bull ran up and tore his nuts off. Bled out before anyone could even call 911.” You shouldn’t say this to your children. I know this now. (Sorry, honey! Daddy loves you!)
So when my mom told me this, I asked the logical next question. “Will I die?”
“Yes,” said my non-Mother of the year winning parent.
“But that’s not for a very, very, very long time,” she added, angling for next year.
And somehow that worked. I don’t know why, because if you think about it, no matter what age you are, when you first learn that the party won’t go on forever it should be pretty fucking traumatizing, right? Instead, I went back to playing with Lincoln Logs and dreaming of becoming the world’s first doctor/police officer who won the World Cup by scoring seven goals in the finals. I guess kids are pretty resilient, even if they do freak out when you tell them the pit bull story.
But my six year old is channeling Woody Allen or something because he actually worries about death. He came to me in tears the other day (and this is not the first time he’s done this), “Daddy, I don’t want to be 100! Because when you’re 100, you die!” He was inconsolable. Even straight up common sense couldn’t reach him.
Me: Daddy’s really old, right?
Son: (sniff) Yeah.
Me: I mean, I don’t have a friendship bracelet made by King Tut like mommy does…
Me: …but I’m pretty up there, right?
Son: You’re very old, Daddy.
Me: Well I’m not even half-way to 100! I’ve got a long way to go!
Wife: Not if you don’t stop making King Tut jokes.
Son: But when I’m 100, I’m going to die! (sniff)
Psychologists say that worrying about death is a phase that many kids go through, and the important thing is that you allow them to voice their fears and help them learn how to “self-calm”. They say this because psychologists are fucking wise-guys. If I knew how to make my kids self-calm, half the shit in my house wouldn’t be broken. Kids are goddamn maniacs! Self-calm? You may as well teach them self-flying for all the good it’s going to do.
So my wife and I say all the right things, reassure our son, and then I take him to Toys R Us and buy him a fucking video game to take his mind off of the subject, which is probably just exacerbating the situation. A couple of hours later, he’ll be playing LEGO Indiana Jones and saying this:
Son: Daddy! I traded Indiana Jones’ whipper in for a bazooka!
Son: Yeah, now I’m going to kill everyone!
I swear, my wife and I are retarded. Violent video games? Oh, hell no! Not for our kids! But what about violence with no consequences? LEGO-style violence which portrays people literally falling to pieces and then resurrecting, teaching kids that bazooka are way safe to play with: Yeah, that’s fine. As long as no one says “damn” or bleeds.
When I thought about this, I considered yanking LEGO Indiana Jones for its extremely high bull-whipping to hugs ratio. But if I pulled that, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean would be next (swords, pirate rape), followed by LEGO Star Wars (swords made of light, extreme dorkiness). And then what? Pretty much every cartoon on TV has got violence in it. Even Dora the Explorer, who fucking gutted Swiper with a machete the other day (although I’d been painting in an unventilated room prior to that, so it may have been different in reality).
And even if you manage to get rid of all of the violent video games and cartoons on TV, the kids still go to school where they learn all kinds of crazy violent shit. “Daddy, did you know that Darth Vader can choke you to death from across the room? What if he tried to do that to me and I had a chainsaw? Do you think I could cut him in half?”
“What? Where in the world did you come up with something like that?”
“Tommy at school told me about a guy who cuts everyone up with a chainsaw.”
“I don’t know. His dad or something.”
“Or maybe someone else. But a chainsaw! Wow!”
And then I’m surprised when he starts acting anxious about dying. We’re surrounded by death. Studies show that, on average, a child sees 8,000 murders on TV by the time they leave elementary school (which begs the questions, what channel is this on, and why does the school let the kids watch it?) Short of submerging my kids into the world of hard core porn, which is notoriously short on violence, what options do I have? Just one. Move to a less violent society.
So I grabbed my son’s globe and gave it a spin. Any place is bound to be better than America, what with its gun-violence, depraved children’s programming, and soaring crime. My family is moving to…
Syria! I’ll let you know how that goes.