I’ve always been a big fan of Aesop’s fables. I was reminded of that the other day when I was at the library for story time.
I literally could get lost in the book aisles for hours although most of my time is typically spent perusing “juvenile fiction.” I love that my son is three, almost four. He is so inquisitive about the world around him. And I try to foster his natural curiosity by getting books on whatever his latest interest is.
One day, it’s pirates. The next day, it’s superheroes. We’ve dabbled in dinosaurs. And now we’re spending a lot of time on sharks, specifically the Great White shark and the now extinct megalodon.
(Side note: if you have questions on either one of these, I’m your girl.)
As we were looking through the stacks, I passed the section on fables and folklore. It was here that we discovered Tikki-Tikki-Tembo, a story we both loved. So I took a casual glance for some of Aesop’s fables. Plenty of Grimm’s fairy tales but no fables. I wanted stories that would teach him some of those life lessons without him really realizing he was learning.
You see, I recognize that this is such an important time in my son’s life not just because he’s discovering the world around him, but because he’s trying to make sense of it all. And I forget, sometimes, that he needs help with that.
This past weekend was full of beautiful weather and we’ve been spending more time outside. Playing, relaxing, exploring, and just soaking up the sun.
I don’t remember if Evan said something or I noticed his peculiar behavior. I walked over to where he was crouched and found him looking at a strange insect. It was a grasshopper and he was struggling. I helped the grasshopper out of the mulch bed and noticed that one of his back legs was limp. I looked at Evan and asked him if he had anything to do with that.
He said he didn’t. He said he saw him and tried to cover him with mulch. My husband said that he thought the grasshopper might have been injured on the driveway. Evan insisted he had nothing to do with it. And we gently place the grasshopper in a cool spot in the grass, knowing that with a limp leg, he probably wasn’t going to last long.
Later in the day, I was in the kitchen baking something (sometimes I do actually show signs of domesticity). I felt something on my foot and looked down to see a daddy long legs crawling. Everyone came running (mainly because of my bloodcurdling scream) and my brave husband put said daddy long legs in a cup and placed him outside.
Fast forward a few hours. Evan is playing outside with Daddy and I’m inside doing an insane amount of cleaning. Suddenly, I hear an angry Daddy and a crying Evan. I look for blood or some sort of injury. No. He has thrown sticks at some daddy long legs outside and caused some fatal injuries after he was told to leave them alone.
He is sent to his room and knows that we are both upset. He knows that when it comes to animals and most living creatures, I have no tolerance for cruelty. Now for his punishment. Immediately, I want to make him write 1000 sentences saying “I will not harm another living creature.”
There’s a problem with that. First of all, he can’t write. Second of all, will it really teach him what I want him to learn?
How confusing do we make it for them?
We kill a cockroach or spider in the house but leave them alone outside. And we capture a daddy long legs or beetle inside and release them outside instead of killing them. Red ants are bad but black ants are fine. Honeybees are good but yellow jackets can cause anaphylactic shock for Daddy.
I tried to explain it all. I tried to explain how everything doesn’t always make sense. I also tried to explain that we are all God’s creatures and we need to have respect for them, even when we don’t like them, even when we don’t understand them.
He said he didn’t know what the grasshopper was. I’ll buy that. They are kind of weird looking. He said he thought the daddy long legs were creepy. I have to agree with him there. But I wanted to teach him not to have fear of the unknown.
Then came his punishment. I asked him to draw a picture that would be his way of saying sorry to the grasshopper and the daddy long legs.
He couldn’t remember what a grasshopper looked like so I showed him a picture on Google. Instead, he had me help him draw this heart and finished the picture himself.
When he was finished, he walked over to me with his picture, tears flowing from his eyes, and the saddest face I’ve ever seen. He wanted me to hold him while he cried. I asked him why he was crying and he said he wished he had never hurt anything.
Sometimes the most important lessons are the hardest. I think Aesop would be proud.