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 begins at 40 so they say – and I’m starting to think they might be right.

life 40

Perhaps it is because I have to face it now that I’m staring down the barrel of 40 (one month today) but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been looking at this age thing all wrong.

While I did a fairly good impression of not caring (at least until someone mentioned it), I admit now that I imagined I was heading towards a door marked LIFE only to find, when I arrived on the eve of my birthday, it was locked.

With no key in sight, all I could do was turn around and look back down the road at all the things I had done in my 39 years, the places I had been, the people I had met and…remember.

It was not a bad feeling, by any means. I am blessed to have lived the life I have, with all its twists and turns, but there was a certain amount of resignation that that was it. I was done.

I think part of the cause, for me, is definitely because this watershed birthday has coincided with the all consuming nature of early motherhood. (Although who is to say that I wouldn’t still be a bit wobbly if I’d had Freya at 19?)

In her very early weeks I remember finally realising that it wasn’t about me anymore. I was a mum now and it became obvious that my needs were no longer important – especially when she was so poorly and needed me so much. What a shock to the system after 37 years of exclusive “me time”. There was a certain amount of panic at first, maybe even a feeling of claustrophobia, but after a while I became sort of zen about it; like dedicating the rest of my life to her needs was exactly as it should be.

Only, of course, I wasn’t looking far enough ahead. It didn’t occur to me that my life was only on hold because I couldn’t see beyond what was right in front of me.

Pondering life, the universe and everything at the beach.

I wonder if the reason I caught a glimpse of something glinting in the flower pot next to the aforementioned door which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the missing key is because Freya’s world is now expanding beyond me? She is gaining independence and simply doesn’t need me as much any more (I’m just going to go and have a little cry. Back in a mo).

It started with being able to find an hour (and the energy) to run again. The first clue that, hold on, I am a mum but I can be apart from her (she’s with her dad) and her world doesn’t crumble. That I’m not letting her down by doing something for me (in fact, I think I’m probably a better mum for it).

Then I put her name down to start (part-time) nursery in September, which she is more than ready for, and it suddenly occurred to me that she won’t be here. And while she will always be my number one priority I started to wonder what on earth will I do with myself?

My immediate thought was SLEEP (unrealistic) swiftly followed by WORK (more likely) with a small dose of PLAY (would be nice).

But here’s where, after unlocking the door, it swung open and a million questions came racing towards me.

What would I do for work? Could I expand my freelancing? Could I get a new staff job in the same or similar field? Should I retrain and do something else entirely (not that I’d really want to but the option is there if needed)? Or maybe I could seriously look into my long-held dream to do a masters (more on this in another post)?

And what of my ambitions outside of work? I want to learn to play piano and cello (not at the same time), write and run.

Suddenly, the possibilities seemed…endless.

I don’t know if any of the things on my list are realistic, especially given that she will only be away for a few hours at first and we are not millionaires, but I feel lighter at least thinking that I’m far from done.

I now believe that maybe (second) life does begin at 40.


Brain Training – Toddler Style.


After more than two years, am I pushing it to still be blaming “baby brain”?

I wonder if there is such a thing as “toddler brain”? I guess there must be because I’m certain I have it (I’m sure it can’t possibly be an age thing).

The other day I discovered half a packet of Pom Bears (crisps) in the fridge  – and, as I was the only person in the house who could reach the fridge, I have to assume I put them there.

Recently we walked the entire length of a floor in the multi-storey car park only for me to realise that we were parked on G not E.

Then there are the missing words. People, places, things. They flutter in and out of my brain like pretty butterflies, already gone when you point your camera to try and capture them.

And don’t mention my glasses. Every time we attempt to leave the flat it becomes a treasure hunt to find them (thank goodness we don’t have that many rooms). One time, after a good 10 minute search, it turned out I was already wearing them (I just thought my eyesight was improving).

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t this bad pre-Freya – not that I can remember, obviously.

Possibly fed-up with the daily glasses hunt, she has decided to take matters into her own hands by devising what I can only think of as some sort of toddler brain training game.

It involves all the plastic crap random toys my mum brings with her.

“What’s this one called?” She asks.

We had enough trouble naming her, let alone a half a dozen random dolls – many which are clearly from programmes we have yet to watch (or were last on tv in the 70s) – so most of the time I just say the first name that pops into my head.

Butter, Curtain and Tinybug are legitimate names in this day and age, right? I’m sure we’ll be seeing them in the Top 10 list for 2016 later this year.

It worked fine for a while.

The trouble is, now she expects me to remember them.

“What’s this one called?”

“Fred.” I say randomly.

“No! John.” As my dad and my brother are both called John (Jon) you would really think I would remember this one.

“What’s this one called?”

“Er, Sally?”

“No, Amelia!”

She gives me such a sad look; it’s like failing a test and disappointing your favourite teacher at school.

I’ve tried turning it around: “What is that one called, Freya?”

But she’s too clever for me: “No, you say.”

Now I find myself glancing at them at different points in the day, usually discarded in the middle of the floor, occasionally muttering “Jake, Amelia, Sarah, John, Tuesday” to myself just to make sure I get them right next time and avoid sad face.

We are thinking of turning it into some sort of app because we have scientific proof that it actually seems to be working – well I haven’t put any more crisps in the fridge this week…yet.