I am planning to write a post on another subject very soon. It is taking me longer than I’d like because at the moment I am preparing to give a lecture on William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, which is a very hard book to distill into an hour long talk.
Anyway, my husband and I spent a half hour in our 6 yo grandson’s kindergarten class last Friday trying to impart some information about the brain. We brought a plastic model of the brain that we could split into two parts, like the two hemispheres of the brain, and we brought the wires that are used to capture the electrical impulses of the brain on an EEG. We thought we’d have a discussion of how our bodies, and especially our brains, operate by the use of electricity contained in our brain and nerves.
They had heard from other parents/grandparents about the heart and circulatory system, and remembered a huge amount about that.
My husband, the neurologist, told them that the brain controls everything in the body. After a series of questions about whether the brain controls our blood, and our fingers, and legs, and…their teacher said everything means everything. What happened next, however, just stunned us. First one 5 yo asked what caused his grandmother’s face to look so crooked as he scrunched up his face to mimic hers. My husband did his best to explain in a very basic way what might have happened to her. But then several kids wanted to know if it’s the brain that stops when we die.
We were bombarded with questions about death for the rest of our stay to the point that I wondered whether we could talk about a less morbid topic, like how fast the brain processes sensations like touch, or whatever. The teacher rescued us by saying time was up, but I came away impressed with how fixated on death these kids were. Next I thought about the brief scene during the school trip in S7 in which Barney keeps asking whether his classmate is going to die.
I know that kids come face to face with death when a pet dies, or when they see a dead animal on the road, or when a family member dies, but I was not expecting the deep fascination with death I encountered in that classroom. Although Barney’s constant return to the question of whether his classmate is dead, or will die, was probably nothing more than another oddball part of the scene that has ME once again pushing little kids around while also once again saving someone’s life, it also exemplifies the preoccupation with death that children have. Barney and his classmates are much older than my grandson and his classmates, but that preoccupation clearly starts early in some cases.
It turned out that there was a death in one of the children’s family that precipitated their questions in the kindergarten class, but it was quite an eye opener for us. Kids say the darnedest things, as Art Linkletter once remarked.
Originally posted 2016-02-21 09:59:00.