The other day I went to the zoo with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. They’re mostly 1st graders.
We were in a huddled group together enjoying a snack, basking in the sun. Girls gnawing on pre-packed cookies and conversing about reptiles. One girl mentioned a certain white snake in the reptile house- to which a parent responded that the snake “went away.” I really absent-mindedly didn’t realize they were trying to gloss over the fact that the snake had died the year before. Did not cross my mind.
“He died I replied.” I really thought the other parent just wasn’t aware of what happened and didn’t think anything, anything at all of my instant response.
I don’t think I am an insensitive person, but I often feel an obligation/duty/ philosophy/interest in telling and explaining the truth in most (when I deem appropriate) situations.
I’ve introduced the concept of death to all my children. We’ve said goodbye as a family to friends and relatives and pets. I’ve never told them the “gone away” cover-up. I’ve explained that people we’ve known were all done living, answered questions and so forth. We’ve shared sad situations and cried together as a family.
The whole situation made me step back and think- am I insensitive? Should I have not told a group of 6/7 year olds (that were not mine) that an animal had died? The girls hadn’t really thought twice about what I had said in that moment, or at least nobody but the grownups had blinked an eye. Do we sugar-coat life experiences too much for our kids? Am I desensitizing my children to not value life? What do you think? What would you have done/what have you done in similar situations?