Tag Archives: death

Dragon’s Tears


I took Motormouth to the cinema for the second ever time a few weeks ago to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. He’s a big fan of the first film, and the TV series, and it’s a special treat to snuggle together while I read the books to him. We were both looking forward to having some son/mummy time together, although I suspect he was looking forward to his packet of sweets even more.

The film was good with the standard of animation we’ve come to expect from the series but there was one thing that took me totally by surprise – *SPOILER ALERT* – Hiccup’s dad, Stoick the Vast, dies.

Yep. Stoick.

A major character.


He does it in a heroic way of course, saving Hiccup, but it’s a death from which there is no coming back. No dragon magic or sleight of hand that will help him get up again. It’s permanent.

Motormouth has lost someone he genuinely liked and cared about. And Hiccup, someone he cares about even more, has lost his Daddy.

He cried (Motormouth that is, Hiccup was a little more stoical about it all.)

He (Motormouth) sobbed his heart out for the rest of the film. And during the walk across the car park. In fact, he was near inconsolable for the whole drive home.

This was a BIG EMOTION.

They don’t really tell you about all the things you need to do as a parent. You take it for granted there will be messy mealtimes and stinky nappies, some cooing and cuddling, and more messy mealtimes and stinky nappies, but it takes a while for it to sink in that YOU are the one who needs to teach that tiny human how to interpret and express their emotions.

This all the while most of us (and certainly me) are trying to cope with our own emotions that have suddenly got more complicated with the insertion of a person whose welfare and happiness are so firmly placed ahead of our own. We have to teach them that not only will they have a reaction on an emotional level to different situations but those reactions are normal and there are accepted ways to express that emotion.

It’s a double-edged sword. We want our children to empathise with others, to understand the emotional bonds that can exist between people, and to modify their behaviour so they can have positive relationships with those around them.

We want them to have the imagination to understand the problems they encounter and be able to make the intuitive leaps that allow them to be creative and inventive when facing everything that life throws at them but…

This same imagination is what allows them to identify so closely with the characters in films and books that, when one of them goes away forever, it’s like a bereavement. No. It IS a bereavement; they have lost someone they care about. Add to that the ability to take those intuitive steps and we have a boy looking at a friend who has lost his father, so who’s to say Motormouth can’t lose his own father? Maybe not to an evil Viking’s thrown weapon, but loss is loss.

Do I regret taking him to see the film when it made him so upset?

No I don’t.


Because I’d much rather he had the opportunity to experience these feelings and learn to deal with them when he loses a fictional friend. That might make it just that little bit easier for him to cope with losing someone in the real world.

Would I let him watch it again if he wanted to, even knowing how upset it’s likely to make him?


And I’ll be there with him for every frame, answering every question and returning every hug and squeezed hand because parenting isn’t just about the happy things and, in a weird way, it can be more rewarding helping him deal with the big bad emotions than the big happy emotions.

Because nobody can do it like a parent.

Baby’s Guide to … Halloween


Hello spooky kitty...
Hello spooky kitty…

Welcome to the latest Baby Guide. This time we are talking about Halloween.

Halloween is a time of year that you will become familiar with, and as you get older, your feelings with regards to it are likely to change. But for now, this is your first guide to a single night that has a huge build up, and is rivalled only by Christmas (more on that another time). So, what are the things you might notice?

Colours    You will notice that there is a predominance of orange, green, purple and black. This phenomenon affects everything from food to decorations to people’s clothes. This is quite nice if you like those colours, not so nice if you don’t and of no interest if you don’t really care. Don’t worry, it won’t last too far past the night and the colours won’t hurt you.

Food    This is also affected by the colour frenzy but there are more appetising things that only appear at this time of year, specifically funny-shaped sweets, cakes and biscuits. Lots of them. Grown ups have a delightful habit of handing this out free to small children (and not so small children if they are lucky). Aside from Easter, this festival is the best opportunity to gather enough treats to send you into a sugar-coma.

Oh, and don’t forget the pumpkin. Some grown ups use the bits left behind when they make the funny pumpkin lanterns, usually to make soup. Feel free to show your true feelings if they decide you make you sample any of it. Pumpkin- shaped food is good. Pumpkin food doesn’t always match up to that image.

Costumes    This is an old tradition that goes back to Celtic times when they believed that evil spirits came out to roam the earth at Halloween and it was safer to pretend to be one of them. This is why so many of the costumes are frightening. Your costume will no doubt be unbearably cute. Cute enough to be terrifying. As you get older the costumes will get better and less scary, especially the ones you are wearing. Unless you are dressed as a clown. Clowns are always scary.

Creepy Crawlies and Other Animals    A number of creepy crawlies, especially bats, rats and spiders are associated with Halloween. This means that there will be hundreds of the things hanging from ceilings, doors, lights and any other handy hooks or protuberances. Most of them will be made of rubber, plastic or some other similar man-made substance. They’re probably not the ones that move by themselves. 

Don’t eat any of them. It will leave you with less room for the sweets.

Trick or Treating    This a delightful tradition where complete strangers will give you sweets if you knock on their door, preferably in costume. (You and them.) This is the one time where it is not only OK to take sweets from strangers but it’s positively encouraged. Some people will insist on giving you healthy stuff like fruit. It’s always good practice to be grateful, whatever you get, since that will increase your likelihood of being able to carry on to other houses in the hope that you will get more sweets. Play the long game.

Occasionally you will encounter a refusal to take part, polite or otherwise. Traditionally this would trigger a trick from you. This is optional and probably not to be encouraged unless it is a very good trick and you are unlikely to get caught. Remember that actions such as throwing store cupboard staples at a house is not likely to lead to a change in behaviour from the householder. It’s better to make them into a cake. Preferably pumpkin-shaped. The eggs and flower that is, not the neighbours. And play the long, long game.

Things that go bump in the night    Since the whole idea of Halloween goes back to the idea that demons roamed the earth on a certain night, there will be an obsession with ghosts and ghoulies, witches and monsters. Some of these will go bump in the night, some, particularly the clumsy ones, might go bump in the day. Having the eye holes in the right place and switching the light on in the dark will help reduce the number of bumps.


For the first few years Halloween is likely to be a spectator sport for you. Be patient. Your time for running around in scary costumes (as opposed to the normal superhero, pirate or prince/princess costumes you favour during the rest of the year) will come and you too will be able to forage in gangs with the rest of the little ghosties and ghoulies.

Nine Lives


Nine lives and counting

Nine lives and counting

 I finished reading a very good book by Michael Jecks the other day. In it, he had written about a murder. Admittedly this took place in the middle ages and was therefore suitably gruesome, but it shocked me.

Which was a pleasant surprise.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well, whether I realised it or not, I had become quite worried about becoming desensitised to violence. The daily dose of death on the news, whether it be caused by war in the Middle East, terrorism somewhere else, some individual taking the ultimate action against another or a natural disaster where Mother Earth is reminding us who really holds the power, it just sort of floats past me.

It doesn’t make me feel sad. It doesn’t make me feel happy of course but it doesn’t make me feel anything.

This of course leads to the next question; with all the advantages of the information age, have we lost the capacity to be shocked any more?

Are we in fact more occupied by how quickly the news came out and whether it was from individuals or through official sources than we are about the human cost behind it?

Is there something wrong with us when we can feel more emotion about an animal being mistreated than whole villages being gassed? The images of a woman putting a kitten into a garden bin went viral and the vitriol towards her was frightening. The coverage across the media went on until she was identified. The latest atrocity in Syria might or might not make it to the afternoon news bulletin, depending on whether it has been superseded by the next event.

And if we can’t tell any more, how can we set a good example to our children; teach them to feel the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, rather than just understanding it as a theoretical concept?

The difference between permanent effect and we can start all over again.

I’ve been trying to explain death to Motormouth. He is struggling with the concept. He knows he had an aunt who died before he was born, and that his childminder’s cat was run over by a car, but I’m not sure he really understands that death is forever. I know he’s probably a little young still. It won’t be helped when he inevitably starts playing computer games with their multiple lives that can be reset simply by restarting the game or buying a few tokens.

When will he be able to separate the “never mind, just start over” illusion of games from the “getting shot can be a life-changing event” or “you don’t just get up again if you’ve been hit by a car”?

In the meantime, we’ll get him to learn the theory by rote and hope he understands the rest in time.

If he, and other children like him, can’t, then we’re all in for a rough ride.

Squashed Frogs and the Grim Reaper

Unsquashed Frog and the Grim Reaper

Unsquashed Frog and the Grim Reaper

Motormouth is going through a stage of being obsessed with squashed frogs. And death.

He doesn’t really see the two go hand in hand though.

Perhaps I should explain a little more.

At the side of our road is a frog. One very flat, very dead frog, clearly the victim of a road traffic accident.

Being responsible parents (and trying to look as if we pointed out this ex-frog to our son for a valid, educational purpose) we have explained to Motormouth that this is what could happen to him if he isn’t careful when crossing the road.

Cue air pumps.”We’ll have to take it to the vet and he can pump it up again.” A confident statement from a three year old.

“No, sweetheart, sometimes creatures are too badly hurt to be fixed again and they die.”

Big mistake.

Not telling him that things die. The mistake was not having really prepared for what comes after – the questions. This from the woman who had to explain what an autopsy was to a six year old as well.

We are not religious, so we have told him that when things die they become stars. He hasn’t really had anyone or anything close to him die before (apart from the child minder’s cat), so I think he is struggling a little with the concept of “gone forever”.

Hence we have the same questions over and over again. (Which is standing operating procedure anyway).

This time it is a little more poignant, especially when he discovered one of the Other Half’s tattoos is in memory of a sister who died before Motormouth was born.

The questions themselves run along similar themes – how did it happen, why did it happen, where did it happen (see the pattern? Rudyard Kipling would be proud) and so on.

We try to answer them as best we can, trying to get the right balance between a warning about road safety and so on, and not scaring him or making him too morbid.

It’s not helped by the fact that Squashed Frog, as he/she is now known in the family, has been there for a few days. It has become a ritual. Every time we go out or come back, we have to visit the frog.

I must admit to looking forward to when the road is cleaned, though the frog is very, very flat and I’m not sure it hasn’t become an integral part of the road surface by now.

I comfort myself with the fact that toddlers are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for sometimes.

He’s now asking whether it was slugs or snails who pecked out the frog’s eyes.

PS – If you’re a Terry Pratchett fan, you should recognise the Death of Rats in the photo. I don’t think he’s mentioned a Death of Frogs, but I’m sure there is one.