Mom, Why Are We Alive?
Explaining the meaning of life to my son.
After a boys only shopping trip, Little Man and my husband Darren arrived home, clearly up to something. Little Man disappeared into the study and came out a few minutes later holding a gift-wrapped present in his hand.
“Mum, you do so much for us and nobody ever even pays you! (He was outraged.) I asked Daddy if we could buy you this present because I know it’s one of your favorite things.”
He held out his hand and presented me with my gift. I unwrapped it as he bounced beside me, gleefully.
Inside was a dragon fruit – a fruit we first tasted on a holiday in Singapore and that I fell in love with. From time to time, we see dragon fruit at our local shops but I never buy it because it’s expensive and frivolous. He had seen it and decided that I deserved something expensive and frivolous. He saw me as someone who deserves recognition and a little spoiling. The enormity of this, coming from my eight year old son, totally floored me.
He demanded that I cut it open right then and there and eat it. I savored every mouthful, we enthusiastically discussed the cool colors and textures and I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious experience of sharing this treat with the kids.
Later that afternoon, Little Man very solemnly and seriously requested that Darren and I go to his bedroom together at bedtime because “there are some important things we need to discuss”. I wondered what on earth was so serious in his life that it would warrant a meeting, so I nervously asked.
He replied, “I want to know what life is all about… you know. Why are we alive?”
Again, I was blown away. This is an eight year old kid!
Darren and I managed to touch base sometime in the afternoon (a huge feat, with three kids on a Sunday at home, I can assure you) to discuss this little nocturnal meeting. Our conversation went something like this: “What the…? How do we answer that?”
“Let’s just see what he says.”
Bedtime came and after we had tucked in Little Miss and Baby G, we (somewhat intrepidly) went into Little Man’s bedroom. “So, Mum and Dad, I want to know why we are alive and what we are supposed to, you know, be doing in life.”
Darren asked him, “Well, what do you think we are here for?”
Little Man replied, clearly frustrated, “I don’t know! I mean, are we supposed to work all the time and get lots of money and big houses and food or play all the time and have fun or do other stuff?”
I answered, “Well, let’s think. Do you think you could have fun if you had no house and no food and no clothes?” He shook his head, “No”. Eyes looking upward, scanning his brain, he replied, “Ohhh, so you have to work to get money to have a house and food and things. Okay. But why are we here? Are we just here to work and get stuff or are we supposed to have fun?”
Darren interjected, “Here’s another thought, Buddy. Who gave you life?”
Little Man, without hesitating, replied, “God.”
Darren smiled, “Right, so what do you think God wants you to do with this life he gave you?”
Little Man’s brows furrowed and he replied, “I don’t know! That’s what I am asking you!”
I smiled widely. I had an idea. “Little Man, remember today, how you gave me that very precious dragon fruit?” He nodded. I continued, “Remember how I was so excited and I loved it so much that I took a photo of you holding it, all wrapped-up and another photo of it unwrapped and even another photo of it once we cut it up?” He nodded again. “Remember how we studied it and talked about the texture of the skin and the colors and the cool pattern on the inside? Remember how, when we tasted it, we enjoyed the way it kind of tastes like nothing and also something wonderful all at once? Remember how I loved every mouthful and I loved even more that I could watch you guys enjoying it, too?” He nodded, gravely.
“Well, Little Man, how did you feel about giving me that gift and seeing me really love it and savour it and delight in it?
“It felt really nice and it made me happy.”
I grinned, “Well, maybe that’s how God feels when he sees us take this life He gave us and really live it. When we explore every bit of life and take joy in it, then it shows we are grateful for it, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s what we are here for – to try to be grateful for the gift of life and to enjoy and share it as much as we can.”
To which he replied, “Dragon fruit is a weird fruit, you know. Some bites taste like nothing and they are boring and other bites are sweet and delicious.”
I pondered this deep thought, internally creating an analogy for life. Before I could go there, he continued, “I like my soft blanket. Sports Camp is cool. Can I have a drink of water?”
Conversation over, clearly. That was that. He was satisfied.
I have no idea if our answers meant much to Little Man.
What I do know, for certain, is that he made me think. He has no idea that he explained the meaning of my life to me. My life with this family of mine is a gift, sometimes boring, sometimes delicious, always interesting and precious beyond measure.