Words. Just words. Just 4 of them. No big deal, right?
Well, yes: when those words are “How do we die?”
And when they’re spoken by a 3-year-old boy, to his Mummy & Daddy.
You can’t avoid death; it’s a part of life. As children grow in awareness & intelligence they begin to work it out for themselves. When they see a squashed insect in the garden or a small animal on the road they’ll eventually realise that it’s more than just “really poorly!”.
Pets can die, & then of course even the very young sometimes have to learn how to cope with the tragedy of a death in the family, or of a friend.
We’d noticed in Jake an increase in boisterous / slightly violent play like hitting, & an interest in Ben 10, which we’re trying very hard to discourage. We’d started hearing “I killed you!” & the like. I think he actually ‘got it’ a long time ago from seeing the demise of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, but without being able to put a name to it. I once asked him what he meant by “killed” & his description seemed pretty accurate.
He has a friend from their little playgroup & now pre-school who seems to be into stuff that we think is just not appropriate for 3-year-olds: violent super-hero stuff from TV, DVDs, toys etc. where there are fights & where people die. We think his friend gets it from playing with his older brother.
We at first put his behaviour down to boyishness, but we now think he’s also being heavily influenced by his friend.
Not being in that situation it’s difficult for me to judge, but surely his parents could be limiting his exposure more? Or perhaps they don’t see the need; they maybe just don’t see it as the problem that we do?
However it’s happened, somewhere along the line Jake seems to have learnt about Death.
On Saturday after dinner he was playing, pretending to be dead. He slumped back in his chair, head rolled back, motionless. Then he sprang back to life, shouting: “I’m alive again!”. As with most things he does, he thought it was funny. It’s a game he plays with his friend.
I haven’t been too happy about the other stuff, but this I found really disturbing. Surely he’s just too young for this? I feel like some of his innocence has been lost - and it has, quite literally – that he’s been tainted, even damaged. He’s growing up fast, yes: but this seems too fast!
In himself though he seems fine; he seems his usual happy, sociable little self, so maybe I’m just worrying too much.
I guess it’s the downside of social contact with other children who come from different backgrounds, first from their little playgroup & now even more so from (pre-)school.
Obviously I can’t undo what’s been done. I can’t make him ‘unknow’ what he’s knows, but is there anything I can do to limit any further – for want of a better word – ‘damage’? Or should I maybe just stop being so protective & accept that this is just what happens when your children mix with other children at pre-school?
Any advice? It would be greatly appreciated!