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mum

What does your child know about ageing?

When it comes to age and ageing, my daughter is more than a little confused.

What does your child know about ageing?

It was during a journey home from the local park that I discovered my daughter is a little confused about ageing.

“That girl is going to die soon,” she announced moments after a teenage girl had jogged past us.

Thankfully she didn’t hear, but I was left wondering where on earth this comment had come from.

“Because she is very tall,” my daughter explained.

And the penny suddenly dropped. In her mind, the older you are, the taller you are, which makes me older than mother but younger than my younger brother.

I tried to explain that it doesn’t quite work like that.

On the subject of age

In her mind, of course, I am already ancient. So imagine her horror when I told her I would be celebrating my fortieth birthday the year she turns ten.

She looked at me with a mixture of sadness and pity, as if I had just announced I would be taking to the hills and spending the rest of my days alone in a wooden shack with little more than a blanket and a flask for company.

These things are easily forgiven because I would have thought exactly the same aged seven. When your age is still in single digits, anything over about sixteen is bound to be considered ancient. So forty is completely off the scale.

But that does not explain why she has asked me more than once, “Is Granny younger than you?” I coped better with her reaction to my impending fortieth birthday.

Age and health

We have managed to have some sensible conversations about looking after your health as you get older. We’ve talked about the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise.

More than once we’ve talked about eating the right foods to keep your skin and hair healthy. I’ve even encouraged her to take a children’s vitamin tablet as sometimes her diet does seem lacking.

To that she further boosted my confidence by commenting that she doesn’t think I’ve been taking my vitamins. Pointing to my hair by way of explanation, she remarked, “Mummy, I can see a little bit of grey.”

What does your child know about ageing? And do they know what age you really are?

6 Comments

  • Actuallymummy
    Actually Mummy

    19 May, 2011

    My daughter (age 6) has just recently figured out that everyone will eventually die. We have had some sleepless nights and a lot of finger/sleeve-chewing anxiety. She understands that age is a factor, and seems to be making a time-line of who is next to kick the bucket. Grandad died 2 years ago with cancer, and I am able to assuage fears on that score by reminding her that he was a smoker (and hopefully tick off a health warning box to boot!). However, seeing Granny (68) reminds her that Grandma (79) may be next. So I think she gets it.
    What she cannot quite see her way to is an understanding that with any luck Mummy (44) has got ages to go yet, and that is where the panic sets in. It took a maths lesson to take her mind off the fear: 'if Grandma lives to be as old as her Mummy (86) how many years is that? And if Mummy lives that long how old will you be? Will you have children by then? What will you call them...' And so to sleep!

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    mum

    RosieScribble

    19 May, 2011

    Actually Mummy, I remember my daughter having exactly the same fears around the age of six. We had many sleepless nights as well. She has calmed down a lot about it now. I think it's a stage (not a nice one) that all children go through but it is certainly diffcult to know how to reassure them. I've taken the approach of telling her that I'm fit and healthy and looking after myself and that I have no intention of going anywhere soon. As she is an only child she worries alot about being left on her own so we have to have that conversation too. I've told her she might get married and have her own family one day but that fills her with horror!

  • Actuallymummy
    Actually Mummy

    19 May, 2011

    I forgot to mention that when I asked her why she was worried about me she told me she had noticed how much chocolate I had been eating, and that I hadn't been out jogging much recently. Now there's motivation for a run....

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    mum

    RosieScribble

    19 May, 2011

    Oh dear. That's why I eat chocolate in secret when she's gone to bed! You're ahead of me on the jogging front though. I'm not sure my daughter really knows what it is. Must try harder!

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    admin

    Ready for Ten admin

    23 May, 2011

    This is such a tough subject isn't it Rosie! My daughter is also six, and has been fixated about death since my sister in law's father passed away last year. Of course she asked me if I was going to die one day. Not wanting to lie to her, I said "yes everyone dies one day, but only when you are really really really x 10000 old.

    She seemed okay with this for a while, but tragically a little boy aged 7 in her school died just a few months ago, and again she was unable to sleep, and very clinging for weeks after. I had to then explain that sometimes younger people get very ill, and then it's also possible that they may die, but now every time I am feeling under the weather or mention that I have a cold, she panicks.

    I lost both my parents, and my husband lost his father before our children were born, and we only have one grandparent left who turns 80 next month. It's not a subject I handle particularly well as an adult, so am very unsure of how I am going to help my children through it when one day they lose their Granny.

    Leigh
    Ready for Ten Team

  • Screen shot 2011-09-08 at 11

    mum

    RosieScribble

    23 May, 2011

    That's absolutely tragic about the young seven year old at your daughter's school. Really sad. I've been reassuring my daughter that people don't die young but I've realised now I'll have to re-phrase that and emphasis that people do get ill. It is such a tough subject isn't it. Sounds like you have had a lot of loss to deal with Leigh. I'm guessing that might sometimes makes the subject harder to tackle rather than easier.

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