We took the kids to the British Museum today, and "may" have triggered an existential crisis in our youngest, by mistake.
First off, it's a beautiful, giant, impressive place, the staff are fantastic, the restaurant was incredible (I had pea-and-mint tortellini for lunch - wow), and the kids were excited to choose two "trails" to follow: the Ancient Egypt (in line to get in, Tamsin had asked if there would be mummies!) and Ancient Britain (Vaughn wanted to see stuff from the Saxons, because he knows more British history than I do), for which they got little guidebooks with items to find and activities to do. So, great!
We walked through the mummy room -- which, let's face it, is the most interesting part of/main reason for an Egyptian exhibit -- on the way to the starting point, and they all seemed fine, but after about 20 minutes of searching and finding, we wound our way back to that same room.
So many sarcophagi (sp?) and embalmed people, including Cleopatra! Not THE Cleopatra, apparently, but her exhibit was very interesting, so we stood there for a few minutes.
My little girl was standing beside me, the brim of her Paw Patrol cap hiding her face, her voice too quiet to hear, so I crouched down (painfully - knees are black and blue and swollen from yesterday's tumble) and had to ask her a few times to repeat herself before I understood.
"I don't want to die."
She was all quiet and white and teary. At four and a half years old, she suddenly came face-to-face with mortality -- when does it usually happen? -- and did not take it well. Over the next ten minutes or so, she had countless hugs, and bravely wiped away tears from eyes suddenly wiser and sadder.
She also doesn't want me to die (which is nice), and didn't really go for the Circle of Life explanation that had worked for the passing of our fish and Chewie, our hamster. She kept repeating, "I don't want to die."
I told her that ...well, it doesn't matter what I told her. She rallied after a quick trip to the bathroom, but I haven't yet. How do you explain to a kid that it's ok, that at a certain point, it can be nice to just...rest.. and let the next generations do their thing, but that it wouldn't be ok if it happened too soon? And what's too soon? And if I promise her that she's not going anywhere for a long time yet, and neither am I, but if I do, does that make me a liar?
Before lunch, she told me that she hoped she didn't dream about this tonight. We tried to give her enough other, good things to think about that she'll have more than enough dreams to choose from.
Now, let's hope that I can have one of those dreams, too.