Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Explaining Drug Overdose to a Five Year Old

On the way to swimming lessons, my five year old started asking questions about her heart. "What if it beeps too fast?" she asks me.

"Your heart is fine," I say. I fiddle with the CD player.

"Do you know that guy who died?"

I think about this for a moment. "Do you mean Michael Jackson?" I ask. She had mentioned him the night before.

"Yes. How old was he when he died?"

For some reason she is obsessed with Jackson's death. Which I find difficult to comprehend. We do not have a TV, so she has not seen any of the hoopla. Best I can figure, she's heard talk of it on NPR.

"He was fifty," I say.

"He had a heart attack," she tells me.

"Not exactly." How terrifying for a five year old. To think that one's heart could just stop. "He had something called a drug overdose."

She considers this.

I have only heard snippets of the Jackson story. It is not my cup of tea. I'm sure he was a talented performer, but I was not one of his legions of fans. Rather, I have been a bit surprised by the hypocrisy of those banking on his death. The artists who've suddenly released tribute albums, the journalists who are singing Jackson's praise, the tiny rhinestone glove pins for sale at the grocery store check-out counter. Seems like a lot of people are making a buck off of this.

I want to explain this in a way that she will understand. A way that will not scare her. I don't want her afraid of doctors or medicine, but I want her to know what happened so she doesn't have to worry that it will happen to her. Explain in limited doses, so to speak.

"You know how you are only allowed to take one vitamin?" I ask her. "If you take two vitamins, that could make you sick, right?"

She nods. We had that talk after she started taking extra iron.

"Well, Michael Jackson took ten vitamins."


"Yes, ten. And that's why he had a heart attack. He had a drug overdose."

"Oh. That was not very smart."

"No. It wasn't."

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