Mr. God, Bunny Bread, and Explaining Death to a 4-Year-Old

Caitlin and I have had some interesting conversations lately about God, or as she calls him, Mr. God. I’ve been telling her stories about my maternal grandmother and trying to explain that she has died and gone to Heaven. But Mr. God and his omnipotent presence works his way into all sorts conversations. Case in point…

    Caitlin: Mr. God made Bunny Bread? (As she is waiting for me to butter her toast.)

    Me: I don’t know….maybe he did.

    Caitlin: Yes he did. (Pause.)
    Mr. God eats food?

    Me: I’m not sure if Mr. God eats food. What do you think?

    Caitlin: Yes. Yes, he does.

    Me: What does he eat?

    Caitlin: Mr. God eats vegetables! (Pause.)
    And he drinks milk!
    (In which I sigh a parental “WHEW” because at least Mr. God has a healthy diet.)

Caitlin also has a bit of an ongoing fascination with the concept of death. The hubby was watching some caveman extravaganza on The Learning Channel yesterday in which pre-Tivo man was killing an elephant for his weekly grub. Caitlin sat glued to the TV, watching the entire scene. “Is that man killing the elephant?” she asked the hubby, and he proceeded to explain to her that many years ago we didn’t go to the grocery store for food.

This is deep stuff people. This is not your typical preschool curiousity and run of the mill “the apple is red?” or “the doggie says woof?” Real life and all the blemishes it carries is slowly unveiling its thorny self to Caitlin and that scares me just a little. The challenge, for us as parents, is talking to her about the scary parts of this big ole world without her automatically pulling the covers over her head. So far, so good.


  1. Nancy says:

    Mimi’s going through this phase, too. She seems fascinated with the concept of death — and alternately blase about it and terrified (she worries sometimes that Mommy and Daddy are going to die and leave her alone). It can be tricky to impress upon her what it means without scaring the daylights out of her. Sounds like you all are doing a good job so far!

  2. Jennifer says:

    My eldest started asking questions a few weeks ago. My husband is military and a friend of his was killed in Afghanistan recently, so she started asking questions about “war” and “bad men” (Taliban), especially when she hears us talking about our soldiers. THEN…last night we watched Chicken Run, they killed a chicken near the beginning and she started asking questions about death and dying. *sigh*

    I don’t know when is the right time to talk about it…when she asks? How in-depth do I go? Sheesh, what a tough job!

  3. Anne says:

    Lily is always bringing up topics that lead to death like: Mommy, where is your Daddy? and Mommy, why is the armadillo dead? (roadkill)

    I try to break it all down into the simplest concepts but hail, no one really knows that answers anyway. She’ll learn that the hard way later.

  4. Jenny says:

    I’m so glad I can put this off for a little while longer. It was hard enough explaing to Hailey this weekend that hitting people is wrong but that roller derby hitting is awesome. I still don’t think she gets it.

  5. Charla says:

    Oh, Chase has hit this phase, too. It started with the “Daddy, where is your daddy?” (like Anne above), and has moved on to “mommy, one day you will be gone, won’t you?” and “when I get really big, I’m not going to be here anymore.” WHERE IS HE LEARNING THAT? It breaks my heart, but here he is talking so caually about it. I don’t want to change the topic immedately, because I want him to think he can talk to me about anything, but I just don’t know what to say about death. And parenting is supposed to get harder from here? Sheesh.

  6. Bluegrass Mama says:

    Emily used to be fascinated by death, too. She was very concerned when I explained that we don’t take anything with us, because she really wanted her doll, Jane. I said that Jesus promised we’d have everything we need in heaven, so if she really needed Jane, she should ask Jesus. At which point she wailed, “How will I know which one he is??” Sigh.

  7. Renee says:

    I get quite a few God and Heaven questions also. My oldest, Anna, used to have a fascination with death when she was about 3 or 4. She’d ask questions about it all the time and it wasn’t in a fearful way, just a curious way. Hmmm…

  8. Kristen says:

    Yeah, it starts to get REALLY interesting when they figure out there’s more to the world than the surface explanations. Our zoo has a mammoth exhibit in the elephant house, and it includes some “cave men” holding spears and aiming them at the mammoth. When he was 2, we took him there not thinking about it, and it made a huge impact – we tried to blow off his questions, but he knew we weren’t telling him everything. He kept wanting to know why they were hurting that poor mammoth. Ouch.

  9. Amanda says:

    I am so not ready for the death questions. My grandfather died 4 years ago and I can’t talk about that without crying.

  10. mothergoosemouse says:

    What Nancy said – alternately blase and terrified. I never can tell what’s going to spark either reaction.

    So hard to walk the line between enough informaton to answer her questions but not so much information that I scare the living daylights out of her.

  11. Colleen says:

    I’m just trying to get my 16-month-old to stop scratching me. I haven’t even begun to think about what comes next. You’re freaking me out! But, in a good way. I’d better start preparing myself for conversations like yours…

  12. says:

    I bet many parents have the same problems. But, seeing the children grow up and become critical is actually another thing we should cherish, too. It’s great to know about your hubby’s good explanation… Thanks for sharing this.

    By the way, I linked you up in my blog post, How to Explain Death to Your Kids in an Ordinary Way.

    Hope you like it, Caitlin’s mom 🙂


  13. mrs mogul says:

    haha that was really funny, I think God eats a lot!! He probably has like seventy servants, some of them Santa’s elves or something!

  14. Mrs. Flinger says:

    Seriously! How cute is that kid? I swear to you, she is a boatload of material. Such a well thought out kiddo.

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