How Long Have You Left with Your Kids?

Written by Stuart Wickes

How Long Have You Got?

“What’s that?” I ask Cameron as I tuck him into bed.

He’s studying a couple of pastel blue post-it notes he’s stuck carefully next to his bed; like there’s something important he needs to remember.

“Oh, I’ve just been working something out,” he says casually, piercing me with his blue eyes and puckering up for a goodnight kiss.

I glance at the two post-it notes; one’s titled Mum 43, the other Dad 47, and both have a series of numbers written out below.

What are those blue post-it’s next to the bed?

What is he working out?

“Are you doing maths homework?”

“No, I’ve been working out how long we’ve got left.”

I’m puzzled and look again at his sticky reminders. The first numbers I recognise as our ages, but what do the others mean?

“I’ve worked it all out,“ he explains, “for both of you.”

We’re talking about my death

“If you die at 70 then I’ll be 32 and we’ve got 23 years left together. If you die at 80…”

I don’t really hear the rest of what he’s saying. For a moment it’s as if I am dead, numbed by a profound anticipation of a loss inexorably heading our way. Just 23 years? Half my lifetime. Then no more. For me. Or him. Or us.

As the shock of my mortality recedes a little, I tune back in and hear Cameron finishing off his explanation, “…and if mum lives to 90, I’ve got 47 years with her.”

Talking with kids about death

Talking with kids about death

It’s not fair

So she gets 24 years more than me? How’s come? How’s that fair? And why is Cameron working all this out? Does he sense something we don’t? Grey hairs, brittle bones, forgetfulness? He certainly senses my concern.

“Don’t worry though Dad, you might live to be 90 too.”

It’s true I might. But 70 might be all I’ve got. Or I could die tomorrow. Life is short. And these years of family togetherness are so transient and precious. Perhaps this is the something important he needs me to remember.

Life is short. Treasure it now.

What’s your experience of talking with kids about death? Do leave a comment with your thoughts.

About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • Hi;interesting blog post.
    I like your blog very much having found it via the CTC, I’ve added your it to my list.
    We’re just a couple of years ahead of you and still in denial of being middle aged.

  • Thanks Doug. I’m with you on the denial front. Middle age is just something someone else says I am. Isn’t it? According to the calculations in this post, I’m way past that point!

  • A very touching post – I had a similar moment with my youngest son – contemplating when everyone dies. I am a new follower (found your blog browsing the internet) and currently living on an island and may be moving to the UK next summer with my husband and 2 boys.

  • Thanks Cheyenne, in a curious way it seems quite healthy to contemplate mortality from time to time, and evaluate what you’re doing with your life. And to talk about it with kids. Death can be so taboo, yet it’s so unavoidable. If you end up in the UK, look us up. Thanks for following.

  • It was Dad’s 86th birthday this weekend. We came to meet at the ski resort, but it was such a short weekend, we had so little personal time. He is still in good shape for 86, but in the past years his health has been deteriorating rapidly. He is living off the interest of his constitution: At 70 he could pass for 50, at 80 for 65. At 85, for 80, and today, well, “in good shape for 86” is the best you get. In a quick aside in a parking lot he mentioned dying for the first time, some mumbled instructions I didn’t want to hear.

    The male generations in my family are long, 40 years between my grandfather and my father, 40 more between him and me, wars shaped those years. I got our daughter “young” at 36 with no such excuse. Consequentially we all have to live to an old age to share time. (My grandfather lived to 99.) Such figures thwart Cameron’s calculations. But you know how it is with statistics, they talk about the past, probabilities talk about the future, and the relationship between the two is shady.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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