(Zoo Boy playing with another of his fancy "toys" -- a ballpoint pen that he insists in a sword.)
A few days ago we went out to run some errands, and on arriving home, I noticed a firefly resting on our screen door. I waited to see if the boys would discover it themselves before pointing it out to them, and was shocked when Zoo Boy, usually a huge fan of bugs of all types, reach over and squashed it.
In true shock and sadness I said "Oh, honey, you hurt it!", wondering if he'd realized what the results of his action would be. He was obviously suprised at either my reaction or his own violent act, and blurted out a quick "I'm sorry!" as a way to repair, backing away from the scene of the crime. Realizing that he may have just been acting on impulse that he might later regret on his own (especially give his sensitive personality), and remembering all too clearly a similar moment in my own youth where I purosely hurt a small helpless animal and later experienced intense guilt, I wanted to connect him to the reality of the event, but not force guilt upon him, rather let him come to his own judgement on the act. So instead I focused on the value of the bug's life rather than the act itself.
I purposely kept my voice calm and just stated the facts as I scraped the body off the screen door and flicked it over the railing. "It was a nice little firefly. But now it's dead." Zoo Boy thought on that a moment or two and, with all innocence, offered "but it was just an insect". "Yes" I said, again just stating the facts, keeping emotion out of it, "but it's still a life". And then I left it alone. Zoo Boy joined his brother inside and they went back to the business of being kids, playing some game or another. As I passed by on my way to the kitchen, I stopped to kiss the top of his head and told him that I loved him. Silently I hoped that the incident had been internalized by him, but figured that it might be weeks or months before I got any proof of that.
It actually only took a couple of hours. In the middle of our usual afternoon activities, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there he was, fighting back tears. He said, mournfully, "Mommy, I'm REALLY sorry about hurting that firefly", and then began sobbing. I told him that I knew he was sorry and I held him and let him cry for awhile. Then I told him "Everybody does something they're sorry about later. What's important is to learn from that." He cried for another minute or two, then dried his eyes and said "Thank you, mommy, that's better" and ran back to play.
5-7 year mission preview, realized
6 years ago