I've been accused that I can be a bit overprotective of my children in certain areas. In fact, my husband snickers whenever the kids and I sing one of my remixes of a classic tune where I have slightly altered the lyrics in order to get a result I like. (WHO STICKS A BABY IN A CRADLE IN A FRICKIN' TREE ANYWAY?!?) I've shared with my husband and others, that I am not trying to shelter my kids. But I occasionally steer away from some subjects till I am ready to best address my children's questions. I want them to ask me anything they want to. I want them to learn about life, but, yes, there are topics that I'm still trying to figure out as an adult before having to explain them to my learning little ones.
A few weeks ago we were headed off to school and my four-year-old noticed something in the road, not moving. "Look, Mommy! That turtle is slooooooooow."
My daughter leaned closer toward her little brother's window and said,"Um, I don't think that's a turtle. It's got some fur left. Maybe long ears? And it's not moving at all. Mommy, what was that?"
Crap. Our first real and very close-up roadkill sighting. Couldn't it have been something less cute?!? I glanced in my rear view mirror at the squashed bunny. Here goes, I sighed...
I gave a brief explanation of how sometimes animals are not as fast as cars. Both kids asked many good follow-up questions, particularly curious about the family the rabbit left behind. They seemed a little sad, but by the time we arrived at my daughter's school, they both seem satisfied with our talk. There were some questions in the days to come--mostly about dying. Again, they seemed to accept my answers.
Just two minutes into our jogging stroller run this morning, my son spotted something in the road up ahead. "WHAT IS THAT?" he yelled. I could see from 50 feet away that it was a dead animal. After we passed the mangled marsupial (veering as far away as I safely could), we went at least a mile with my son asking questions about the smashed critter. Thankfully, he moved on to math when he spotted several numbered mailboxes. (Geez, how many questions can you answer about one dead animal?)
On the way back up the hill, I could see the even flatter remnants of the opossum. I braced myself for more questions. Instead my son offered five plausible reasons as to why the opossum was killed in the street. My favorite being "he didn't have enough energy to go fast because he needed a healthy snack."
What I am realizing about some of these tough topics that must and will be addressed in my journey of parenthood and my children's life learning is that if you give your kids the support, open communication, and opportunity to explore their world, they'll come up with their own thoughtful explanations and conclusions about life. I don't have to have all of the answers. And sometimes it's probably better that I don't.
In fact, kids often have the best ones. As we neared the opossum the second time my son suggested we not drive right through it because that would be too bloody and gross--instead we should "just go around it." I'm glad to see that not only has my veering strategy been passed down to my son, but even happier to know he's managed to make it look like it's actually the smart thing to do sometimes.