Monday, December 01, 2008

Discussions of life and death with a 5 year old

One of the benefits to cyber schooling is having the opportunity to be directly involved in a child's education.  Indeed, in the younger grades, it is essential to be the teacher (small 't') whereas the Teacher is a person whom the student converses with online, by phone, and at sees at the monthly field trips.

Our kindergartner has taken very well to the cyber classes, and my much-better-half has the dominant role as teacher, with me filling in as needed.  Last week the 5 year old asked me to help him with his science class (note: to the best of my memory, I didn't have Science in kindergarten.  In fact, short of snack time and frying pumpkin seeds in oil, I have no recollection of kindergarten). We read the book Things that are alive, things that are not  (the title may be incorrect; will update if I am wrong), which was helping kids understand that inanimate objects aren't alive, and so forth.   

One page of the book described if you walk in the park and see a bird lying on the ground, not moving, and not doing anything a bird usually does, it's dead.   Obviously, the author needed a good example of a dead animal, but never considered the amount of road-kill seen on rural roads.   That said, the drawing of a bird lying on its back on a field of green elicited a case of the giggles from my son.  But, remember, he is 5.

A few days later, however, this topic apparently began to ferment in his head.  Daddy, why is it that dogs and cats can get old and die, but people can't?   Ohhhhh-kay.   He's beginning to piece things together, albeit with a few holes.  I explained to him simply that people can die just like dogs and cats, and in fact anything alive can die. He seemed satisfied with this, and then changed the subject to what was on TV.  I later learned that he asked my much-better-half if birds could die could our cat die, too?   So the progression was logical.

A day later he asked me if people can die when they get old, how come Pop is still alive?   Wow, now he's shoving my father into the ground!!  Won't Pop be pleased??

I know this type of discussion hadn't come up when our 13 year old was a similar age, but then he had the mixed blessing of experiencing the passing of my much-better-half's parents over a few short years (and he didn't start cyber school until the 2nd grade, if that matters).  I reassured our youngest that while Pop was old, there's no reason to think that he's going to die tomorrow, which again satisfied him (at least for then and there).    My father is 78, and in overall good health, so there's no reason to think he's going anytime soon, but statistically speaking, he's entering the home stretch (the SSA predicts he's got another 9 years or so).

Since my youngest has accepted that people can (and do) die, I am going to wait for another question before I approach the topic further.   He's exhibited a healthy level of inquisitiveness for this topic, I think, and isn't apparently bothered by the topic.    My father has 2 older brothers still living (and 2 younger sisters, the husband of one sadly is struggling with cancer),  so it a stretch to imagine that a funeral may be in the cards over the next few years (believe me: I have no wish to hurry such an event).  So sooner or later, this will be discussed again.

In the meantime, I await the next question to come to mind of my youngest.   It is more than a little interesting to witness the thought process taking shape in his young mind.

Sphere: Related Content
DiggIt!Add to del.icio.usAdd to Technorati FavesFacebook