With a 7-year-old, I try to let him lead the conversation into what he wants to know while also telling him what I want him to know. It’s hard to get the balance right. This was our conversation this morning as we were getting ready to leave for school:
D: Mom, who is that Janis lady in that picture?
Me: That’s Janis Joplin. She was a tremendous rock and blues singer. One of the best that’s ever lived and one of my all-time favorites.
D: It says on the picture she died that day. Did she die right after that picture?
Me: No, that was backstage after she had given a concert, she went to her hotel after that and that was where she died.
D: Was she dying right when that picture was taking?
Me: (thinking) Well, in a way, yes. She didn’t take very good care of herself, so she was more likely to die young. But in the picture, she is just tired, and maybe a little sad, but not actively dying.
D: How did she die?
Me: She took drugs, and died as a result of taking them.
D: Why did she take them?
Me: A friend of hers gave them to her and told her they would make her feel better, but obviously that was a bad idea. Sometimes people around you have good intentions but bad ideas.
D: How old was she?
D: (thinks) I’m never taking drugs.
I sure hope not, kid.
We listened to Janis on the way to school this morning and I told him a little more about her on our journey.
I’ll save the factoid about Mom singing once with Janis’ band until he’s had a chance to watch a few videos of her and BBHC.
We’ll delve more into the drugs thing when it seems like a good time. If there even is a good time. I’m less worried about scaring him or freaking him out than I am telling him stuff too young for him to retain or to be able to handle the information correctly, since his friends are constantly in competition about everything – knowledge, sports facts, who is quickest in turning in a test, who knows more about ocean animals. I’d rather not tell him stuff that’s going to spark a conversation about drugs and get him and his friends in trouble. Hell, it’s only been a month since he was in the principal’s office because he and another friend used the F word at the lunch table.
He’s growing up so fast.