As you’ve probably guessed, I’m pretty fond of my kids and of being a mom, overall. Maybe it’s the whole dedicated-parenting-blog-thing that gave it away, or how I kind of flipped out on the anti-child childfree folks a while back…
But I have to admit that I’m a bigger fan of kids than I am of babies. Don’t get me wrong… I loved my babies to pieces and they’re incredibly fun (whenever they aren’t waking you up every 47 minutes for nights on end or irrationally screaming whenever you venture into public space) except they don’t really do much.
No… for me, the really fun part happens at the latter stages of three, working up through five or more, after kids start really grasping the English language and expressing all the raw, unbridled notions in their heads. You can see how humans think when they still believe magic is possible and before they’ve been properly socialized or learned how to fake being “normal.”
Take, for example, what happened a couple days ago when Bridget (3) was stung by a bee in a bush in our front yard right before our family took our evening walk and then her sister Brontë (5), being a kid herself, figured out the best way to comfort her…
Me: OW! It’s okay…
Bidgie (bright red and screaming): BWAAAAAAA! WAAAAAAAAAH!
Me (grabbing her arm in concern): Show me!
(I see a welt around a red spot and try to compare the two arms for swelling. I secretly worry about whether my kid has a bee sting allergy and quietly check her face and throat for signs that she’s right about to dangerously swell up while trying to cover up my secret panic… as Bridget nonstop screams)
(Neighbors start looking over with concern)
John (after picking out the stinger): It’s all red. Let’s get you some ice to make it feel better. Daddy has been stung by lots of bees and hornets and jellyfish and it will feel better really soon…
Bidgie (furiously clawing the air in her rage): BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
Brontë: You know what? That bee is gonna die for stinging you.
Bidgie (raising her eyebrows): Yeah?
Her sister’s comments cut the screaming short so fast, I could almost hear a record screeching in the background. We took Bidgie inside to put a bag of frozen peas on her arm and she was 100 percent better, ten minutes later.
Turns out, she isn’t allergic to bees (whew) and Brontë was obviously paying attention to the bee nature videos I had rented from the library.
You see, Brontë had a deathly fear of bees herself, so I’d grabbed a bee video, wondering whether increased knowledge would help her conquer fears of the frightening unknown (as it does with me) and I ended up being started by the unblinking fascination she held for the life of bees.
“They die when they sting you?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I told her. “The stinger falls out in your skin and they die.”
She nodded solemnly, contemplating the cosmic balancing scales, tucking away this newly-discovered fact for an opportune moment… such as when comforting her baby sister after just being stung by a bee.
See… the fact that Bridget would scream, nonstop, despite all of her parents’ attempts at comfort, would make one think that the pain itself was prompting hysterics. Except she quit the very second her sister revealed that the culprit would die…
Which means that Bridget’s screaming was less about the pain than a general feeling of gross injustice: here she was, minding her own business when this furry insect flies over and painfully stings her in an unprompted show of aggression…
And the moment her sister explained that this lunatic would be sentenced to death, Bridget calmed down and mustered the internal fortitude to carry on with toddler dignity.
It’s a primitive justice, to be sure. Most adults would consider how the animal was just protecting itself and consider celebrating its death to be somewhat macabre.
But it demonstrates how one’s sense of justice is wired early on. Convince a kid that something is “fair,” and they’ll get surprisingly reasonable.
We ate honey on our toast the next morning.