Saturday, October 29, 2005

Life lessons

Tonight we found a little baby bird inside. The cat had obviously brought it in, whether it fell out of its nest first or the cat got it out of the nest, who can know? It was still alive but not moving very much, other than to open its beak occasionally. The kids all had a close look at it, and then we tried to work out what to do with it. It was cold and rainy outside. There were a couple of agitated birds flying and calling outside that we decided were its parents. We couldn't see a nest in any of the trees. Anywhere that we could put it, the cat could reach it. The kids wanted to keep it inside, but I explained that we didn't have the right things to feed it and we couldn't get to a pet store to buy baby bird food (Ryan's suggestion) until the next day when it would probably already be dead. We ended up putting it under the tree the birds were in and locking the cat inside, to try and give it at least half a fighting chance. I explained that it would probably die as it couldn't fly up to its nest, its parents couldn't lift it back up, it was cold and rainy, and there was no food and a cat. Optimistically, Bethany decided that it would grow up and then it would be able to fly back up to its nest. I did weaken from my realism at all costs stance and concede this was possible.
We moved into the bedtime routine and Bethany got quite upset about having to get dressed in her pyjamas. Out of nowhere she then burst into tears and said 'I don't want the bird to die'. I gave her cuddles and let her cry. She said 'I'm so sad because birds are my favourite flying things'. Again we talked about it, and I stressed the positive possibilities (like maybe the parent birds would grow opposable thumbs and be able to lift it into the nest) while also mentioning the negatives. It all seems forgotten now, but I daresay we will be checking outside in the morning to see how it fared.
This all got me thinking a bit about my stance on death. Now Ryan is as logical as me, and the thought of things dying and not being here any more is just part of reality for him. We have had very few problems of this sort with him. Bethany is a little more, um, sensitive? A few weeks ago she got very upset about growing into an adult, which was actually about having to die eventually. Paul talked to her about heaven which made her happy (the thought of being an angel, i think). I was a bit unsettled about this as neither of us have ever pretended to be Christian or religious in any way. But then I realised, it gives Bethany some solace, and is essentially equivalent to the tooth fairy in terms of me having to not be as truthful and honest as I usually try to be with the children. So I try to answer her questions about it ('how do you fly to heaven when you're dead?') as well as I can, without putting my usual 'some people believe' qualifier on it (though Ryan will often chime in with that).

'Nose' by Bethany

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