Talking About Death With A Four-Year-Old.


“I’ll always be able to count on you, won’t I mummy?” Freya asked.

We were sat at the dining table where she was drawing before dinner.

“Of course. Always.” I answered, gently rubbing her back. She looked up from her work and smiled sweetly. What a lovely mother/daughter moment.

“Not when you’re dead,” she added.

I didn’t even flinch. “Well, no, maybe not then.”

I’m getting used to having my hopefully not impending demise thrust in my face. It’s like some sort of hardcore therapy.

As an older mum, dying before she’s grown is a background worry. It was one of those things that used to keep me awake at night when I was pregnant and a billion hormones were racing around my body causing havoc. What if I’m not there when she’s a teenager; when she goes to uni; when she goes off backpacking (and I can’t go with her); when she gets married? Maybe younger mums worry about that sort of thing too? Maybe having children makes you think more about your own mortality?

People, young and old, die everyday. I figured there was no point in thinking about something I largely have no control over. So I didn’t. Or at least I tried not to. Until now,  when that option has rather been taken away from me.

I know just who to blame for her current fascination with death. I’m looking at you, Pixar and Disney.

An advert for their new film, Coco, came on television one night and prompted a discussion about Day Of The Dead. I think I did a pretty good job of explaining what it was in a positive and hopeful way – as, to me, it seems like a colourful, life-affirming holiday.

But then, later, as we all sat snuggled together in the warm, darkened living room in the wind down before bed, she shocked us when she said to Mark: “If you die, I’ll be fine because mummy will be here to look after me.”

It was the almost “nur nur ne nur nur” way she said it that took us by surprise. I turned from raising my eyebrows at Mark, back to Freya to try and find something appropriate to say. Before I had chance her little face crumbled.

“But…but…if you die,” she said to me. “I will be all on my own.”

Big fat tears started rolling down her face. She looked utterly heartbroken. And then, suddenly, I was crying too.

Wait, what. No. That isn’t supposed to happen – although she had just tapped straight into one of my nightmares so maybe it’s forgivable?

I wiped away my tears and Mark and I both worked to reassure her that we are not going to die and, even if we did, she has lots of people who love her, including my brother who has already agreed to raise her should anything happen to us.

It seemed to sooth her.

We’ve had further conversations about what happens when you die. I was actually worried about this – as someone without any religious faith – but I’ve been able to talk to her about all sorts of beliefs (it just so happened that our local mosque was holding an open day so I was able to take her there too as part of our general learning). I explained that when she’s older she will be able to decide what she does or doesn’t believe in, just like I did.


She seemed ok about it but the four-year-old mind is a mysterious beast and now, every so often, she’ll just randomly drop it into conversation. We might be talking about something completely unrelated or be in the middle of the food shop. At first I asked her if she had anything else she wanted to say about it but it seems she just wants to let me know that she knows. It’s like living with some sort of mini Grim Reaper.

Now most of our conversations go a bit like this.

Her in the middle of dinner: “I’ll miss you when you die, Mummy.”

Me: “Thank you. Eat some more peas.”

I know it’s fairly normal at her age to start thinking about death but have any of you got any tips? Anything specific I should or shouldn’t be doing?

Little Hearts, Big Love



Life, The Universe And My Three-Year-Old.


“Mummy, do you know what the Big Bang was?” Freya asked.

It was 7am and it had been my turn for a lie-in (I know, who’d have though I’d ever call 7am a lie-in?). I had woken up just a few seconds before. As I staggered into the living room my mind was on what to have for breakfast, not trying to explain the creation of the universe.

I actually swore in my head (I’m really grumpy first-thing).

My poor old brain started to crank up, I could almost hear the rusty cogs begin to ever-so-slowly grind together.

She’s been asking some corkers lately…”What is Roman?”, “Where does water come from?” and “Who is Jesus?”

While I’ve had a good stab at them, they can sometimes lack a few (very occasionally essential) facts. She usually asks things at The Worst Possible Moment, such as when I’m driving, in the middle of the supermarket shop or desperately trying to find a public toilet for her. As a result I usually follow up with a “we can look it up when we get home” using my handy set of encyclopedia, which a neighbour gave to me when I was small (and date from 1933). They have been lugged from house to house for several decades and even though some of the information is perhaps a little out of date (and some things obviously don’t feature at all) I love physically being able to flick through the pages and look something up.


Her questions have definitely been getting harder lately (and by that I mean she no longer just asks “why?” to everything) but this, well…

“So…” I started, working out how best to explain it to a three-year-old.

“You know she means the big bang from last night, right? The sound that made her jump,” Mark interrupted, looking at me like I was losing the plot.

All of the air whooshed out of my body.

“Thank goodness.” Although in some respects that was harder to answer because I had no knowledge of this bang.

“Probably a car backfiring,” I guessed.

She seemed happy enough.


A quick snapshot of some of the things she’s said to make me laugh/cry a little recently.


“What sort of cake should we make?” I asked her.

“Not a poisoned one,” she answered instantly.

Well. I always set out trying not to poison people with baked goods, honest.

Mark and I were chatting in the car recently about something he needed to do for work and he asked me:

“Have you ever written a skills matrix?”

Before I could answer, Freya piped up from the back: “I have but it was a long time ago”.


Then there is the brutal honesty.

I came out of the bathroom wearing a new red top. I hardly ever buy anything new but I saw this top and thought I would cheer myself up with a little treat.

“I think you look better in your old clothes,” Freya said as soon as she saw me.


Life is never dull, that’s for sure.

Little Hearts, Big Love
Cuddle Fairy

Thanks A Bunch, Tooth Fairy (And As For You Peppa Pig…)


Sleep is hard enough to come by in our house, at least for any extended period of time,  without outside interference – I’m looking at you, tooth fairy.

“I’m staying up all night tonight,” Freya said matter of factly.

“That’s not happening,” I snapped, almost before she had finished speaking – because I have no doubt, thanks to three years worth of experience, that she could do it.

“Why would you want to stay up anyway?” Mark asked, a little more gently.

“So the tooth fairy can’t take my teeth.”

“Have you lost a tooth?” I asked. She looked at me like I was speaking a different language. “I mean, has one of your teeth come out?”

Again with the look. 

I tried a different tack.

“What do you think the tooth fairy comes for?”

“To steal my teeth while I’m sleeping.”

“Um, yeah, no. That’s not what she does. When you’re much MUCH older you get a new set of teeth come through so your old ones fall out.”

She looked absolutely horrified. I can see sleep disappearing like a donut left sitting on the kitchen counter.

“It doesn’t hurt and it’s nothing to be worried about, especially as it won’t happen for years yet,” I added quickly.

Mark, seeing that I’m fighting a losing battle, joined in. “So when a tooth falls out you put it under your pillow when you go to bed and then after you’re asleep the tooth fairy comes and collects it and leaves you a pound.”


Good question.

“She collects teeth,” I chip in.

“What for?”

Mark and I look at each other. We’ve got nothing. 

“She… likes…them?”

“Anyway, you have nothing to worry about now. Ok?”



10 seconds later.

“I don’t want the tooth fairy to take my teeth,” she said, clamping a hand over her mouth.

“Where have you even got this from?” I asked.

I imagined she’d perhaps got into YouTube when we weren’t looking and, even though it’s the children’s version, watched a frightening horror-style version of the tooth fairy story.

“It’s from Peppa Pig,” Mark said.

Apparently Peppa loses a baby tooth and decides to try and stay up to see the tooth fairy. Lovely.

As expected, Freya had a restless night (even more so than usual).

Later the next day she said: “Can I have a pound please?”

“What for?”

“For my teeth.”

“That’s not how it works. Want do you want the pound for?”

“I want to buy a bike.”

“You’ll have to wait for Father Christmas to come for that,” my mum helpfully chipped in.

My eyes widened in horror. If she’s worried about a tiny fairy what’s she going to think of a full grown bearded-man breaking into the house in the dead of night?

What are the chances of me keeping him a secret?

Yeah, goodbye, sleep.

Little Hearts, Big Love