Out of the Mouths of Babes, VIII

SillyBilly: Are Hansel and Gretel real?
Mama: (dodging and weaving like #42) That depends on what you mean by “real.”
SillyBilly: Real means real!! (He said this as if he’d already reached the stage where I am a complete idiot. Five going on fifteen, that’s my boy.)
Mama: Remember our conversation about thoughts and feelings being real even though you can’t see or touch them?
Papa: When you feel hungry, is that real?
SillyBilly: YES!!! (As real as our grocery bill. I’m waiting for the day it exceeds our rent. By then I’m sure the owner of our local Chinese food buffet will have made enough off us to buy that vacation house in the Bahamas.)
Mama: But you can’t see your hunger, right?
Papa: So stories are real in the same kind of way. But if you’re asking if there were people named Hansel and Gretel who had an adventure with a witch, then…we don’t know.
SillyBilly: When we die and go up to heaven, we can find out what’s real.

This conversation happened the day after I chose to read the kids Hansel and Gretel while waiting in a doctor’s office. It was really too scary for them: the mother was dead? the stepmother wanted to leave the kids in the forest? the witch wanted to cook the kids and eat them? It’s really a story for ages 6 and up (according to wise Waldorf kindergarten teachers).

But we just couldn’t resist getting all philosophical about “real.” Don’t get me started on The Velveteen Rabbit.

Ed.: I just realized that I had a previous conversation written down that would explain how we had already talked about “real”:

SillyBilly: What’s reality?
(Papa hands off to Mama, even though he’s the philosopher in the family.)
Mama: Some people say that reality is things that we can touch or see, and things like stories and pretending aren’t real.
Papa: But other things like thoughts and feelings are real.
Mama: Some people believe that God is real even though we don’t see him or touch him.
Napoleona: God is a spirit!
SillyBilly: God is the biggest spirit of all.

We were being bad Waldorf parents, using lots of words and abstractions with preschoolers who are more in movement and the will. But on the other hand, we were meeting SillyBilly where he is now. How to balance that?!



Filed under Kid Talk, Parenting

9 responses to “Out of the Mouths of Babes, VIII

  1. L.A. Daddy

    So far, we’ve been lucky. Not too many philosophical questions from LA Toddler. It… sorta has me worried that she’s not asking this stuff, but… I’m not going to worry. To each their own.

    But I’m sure it’s coming. And I’m sure that no matter what answers I give, I’ll get the same look her mother gives when she knows I’m serving up a lot of crap.

  2. (un)relaxeddad

    Oh boy. Using abstractions with toddlers. You’re in trouble now! Me, the Anthrosophical Police would just lock up and throw away the key. I must recount dudelet’s creation myth (complete with caves and skeletons) one of these days. We’re still trying to work out where it came from.

  3. Henitsirk

    LA Daddy: count your blessings. I look forward to these conversations as an outlet for my creativity, but they are still pretty challenging. And my kids are way less physically oriented than other kids, so as you say, to each their own.

    As for serving up a load of crap, I think a nicer way of saying that is “thinking on your feet”. Or maybe that’s why anthropapa always passes the philosophy ball my way…

    Evidently my big philosophical question as a child was “why do mountains have points?”

    URD: I know, we are so busted by the Waldorf police! We’re hardly even supposed to use words with the kids at this age (only a slight exaggeration), no less discuss philosophy and religion!

    But I think it’s good, it’s a sign that they’re pondering important things, and that even if they are very physical, sensory beings they also have nascent spirituality.

  4. aimee / greeblemonkey

    I came over from Mitch McDad… and OH MY GOD… we are totally having these exact conversations with our son, who will be 5 in September. It must be a developmental milestone or something.

  5. szilvi

    I would also like to talk with parents who have somewhat older children (as well). We are sometimes at a loss when our older ones (11 and 10) ask questions like “Who is Osama Bin Laden?”, “What is the cold war?” “Why do people steel cars?” We don’t have a TV, yet, the questions and topics do seep in, and with a historical/political one you just don’t even know where to start your story… We find that “existencialist” questions (God, etc.) are among the easier ones: we can talk about them with conviction. What how do you explain other people’s evil, without passing judgement, without forcing your opinion onto your kids?

  6. Henitsirk

    Hi Aimee, thanks for stopping by! It’s good to hear it’s not just our own little weirdos!

    Szilvi, I wonder when those kind of questions will start. Our kids are still very sheltered because they’re not in school yet, we don’t watch TV, and they can’t read. I’m not sure how I will approach it, other than as even now when we talk about being kind to others, using words instead of hitting, etc., I try to work with Non-Violent Communication. That way I can try to avoid judgment. We’ll see!

  7. healingmagichands

    Don’t even send the A. P. over here. My mother’s position was, if the child is old enough to ask the question, then it is old enough to get the answer. It seemed to work okay with her four children.

  8. szilvi

    I made myself a google account, hope I can comment now…

    well, I don’t agree with your Mom, bless her heart, though. Kids might be old enough to ask certain questions, but we must very carefully judge, how we present the answer. Giving them the so-called objective, grown-up, scientific, detailed, etc. answer might do serious damage,- causing the kids to get disturbed, alarmed, anxious When they get answers they do not understand, instead of being satisfied they just raise more questions, hoping that they will eventually understand. Those answers they’ll probably understand even less, etc. Nice little circle.

    And one also has to mention the kind of questioning some (intellectualized) 4-7 year-olds get into: they see, how their parents like them to ask smart questions, and in order to impress the parents, they keep asking more and more such questions. Not, because they truly want to know, but it is an ego-boost for them. We should watch out for this. (We have a kid like this, our firstborn, so I know.)

    Oh, I am definitely not advocating NOT answering kids’ questions, but to carefully consider what and how and when. From our favourite teacher I also learned that it’s OK, to sometimes say “when you’re 10 (or whatever), I’ll tell you.” You wouldn’t believe how well the kids accept that.

  9. Henitsirk

    HMH, your mom seems to be on the side of the question that says meet the child where they are.

    Szilvi, you seem to be more on the side of not over-intellectualizing too early.

    Unfortunately I believe both of you, which still leaves me pondering how to balance this!

    Particularly with my son, because he was verbal very early and is very quick mentally, we have a hard time with this issue. Both of us parents are very verbal people, and so it’s difficult for us to get out of that even in the interest of our children.

    I think I will take this view: answer their questions in what I feel is an age-appropriate way, but not instigate these conversations, and not go too deeply into the answers. I’m pretty good at coming up with imaginative answers (the Waldorf style like “it’s raining so all the plants can get a long drink after being thirsty for so long”).

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