A 32-year-old north side woman was turned into a banana and eaten this morning. The only witnesses, her two- and three-year-old sons, were unable to recall exact details of the incident, but it appears it might have involved foul play.
An angry young chef chopped up a 32-year-old Chicago mom at 4 p.m. this afternoon. He then put her in a soup with carrots and cinnamon. Her husband and two sons are being questioned.
A mother, confused for wild game, died of fatal wounds from a bow and arrow this afternoon. Just before the incident occurred, neighbors say they heard a young voice yell, “You’re a turkey and I’m a Wampanoag. I’m gonna shoot you, turkey.”
I die at least three times a day. Each time, it’s new, in a way I’d never imagined possible and it extrapolates me way out of my comfort zone. The experts tell me it’s healthy and even important for my young preschooler’s development to explore these themes of power within the context of play. Yet I’m contemplating my mortality a little more than I’d like.
It’s not that I’m afraid of death, save for the idea of how my absence would impact my loved ones, but the constant pretend play in which I reluctantly engage with Charlie, who’s (obviously) struggling to find ways to explore his sense of power, really throws me onto a macabre train of thought. “Honey, it makes me a little uncomfortable when you pretend to shoot me,” I tell him. “I just don’t have very much fun pretending to get killed.”
Most of us aren’t raised to be comfy with the blatant violence to which very young kids are drawn in play. It’s not “nice.” We don’t want to encourage present or future bad behavior. We want to teach them never to point a gun at someone. It scares us.
I’ve been working really hard at growing less squirmy about the obsession with weaponry, the superheroes, the chasing, the cannibalism and the animal attacks that seem to come with being mom of two little boys. Part of my efforts entailed poring over a PowerPoint from Amy Zier, a rad pediatric occupational therapist, titled, “Power and Aggression in Play: Is this really needed? Yes, for emotional health and social competence.”
According to the research in Zier’s presentation, boys spend 15 percent of the day in rough and tumble play-fighting and chasing (it’s more frequent with boys than girls.) Also, aggressive play is a means whereby children address developmental issues. It helps them to resolve issues of power and control, allows them to resolve or reduce fears or anxiety and permits them to act out their aggressive impulses in a safe, controlled environment.
But the point that really got me on board with chasing, wrestling and feigning my own death repeatedly: If the parent is uncomfortable with aggressive play, the child will not move through this stage as quickly and may have anxiety/shame associated with feelings of power and aggression. The child may be slower to get through this developmental phase.
“You better run, Peter Rabbit! I’m Mr. Macgregor and I’m coming to get you,” I holler. “If you don’t get out of my garden, I’m going to turn you into a stew!” Charlie squeals with glee and jumps into the air. Kip begins laughing hysterically and running in circles.
Admittedly, it’s still an emotional stretch for me to follow Charlie’s lead in this kind of play, but to both boys, Mommy dying a violent death-by-dragon on the sunroom floor is hysterical. “I know you don’t like it, Mommy,” Charlie says, in his own sweet voice rather than in the screechy roar of the dragon, out to get me a moment before. “But I think it’s so, so, so fun!” And he giggles while collapsing onto my chest.
That’s when it strikes me that death doesn’t have the same baggage to him as it does for me. Little kids have so few of the judgments and attachments we have as adults. While pretending to die launches me into a million what-if scenarios, all of which include worry about his future as a torturous oppressor, for Charlie, death is something he knows only in his imagination, the idea of it only lasts for a few seconds and causing it makes him feel awesome in his body, superhuman, even. What’s more, after this free, explosive expression of power, he’s a whole lot nicer to his little brother.
And then, almost like a eulogy, immediately following my death, I’m covered in hugs, shined up with smiles and hear things like, “You’re such a nice mommy. Thank you so much for playing with me just now.”
Being a parent pushes all kinds of limits within a person’s core and, despite massive resistance initially, I’m proud to say I’m getting pretty good at dying with drama. As long as I’m rising a half second later armed with roars and tickles against my gleefully fulfilled opponents, I’m willing to handle a few more years of thrice-daily obituaries.