We have a super little park about 3 minutes stroll from our house and If the weather is dry then we can be found there most days. We live in a neighborhood with no through roads making it a pretty safe walk; as such i place a degree of trust in F to ride his bike ahead as long as he always stops at the curbs.
I’m proud to say he’s good at this, and for the most part, very aware of road safety; but at the end of the day he’s still just 3 years old – energetic, excitable, distractible.
The other day we were racing home (him Lightning McQueen, me Francesco Bernoulli and the baby Jeff Gorvette – characters from Disney Cars if you don’t posses a child within the target demographic) when he darted out into the road without thinking. No harm done, no traffic, but that’s not exactly the point is is?
I lurched forward and pulled him back onto the pavement; I explained why what he did was so dangerous and told him he needed to be very careful of cars or he might get ‘squished‘. On reflection this was perhaps a slightly more graphic choice of adjective that i should have used, but one that stopped him in his tracks.
‘And then would you go to the shop and buy a new me?’
What happens when a toy gets trodden on, bashed a bit too hard or, um, ‘squished‘. Well depending on the strength of argument* you put forward for a replacement you may** get another one purchased for you (*tantrum **probably will).
So i guess he reasons that when an actual real life person gets ‘squished‘….well you do the same thing. Good guess kid, but it’s not the one.
‘No i can’t get a new you, there is only one you and that is the only one that i want.’
‘You wouldn’t want a new me?’
‘No just you, only ever you.’
‘So what then?’
What indeed. Does a 3 year old really need to know that life is not forever, that sad things happen, that people sometimes go away and don’t come back?
Not yet, not yet.
‘Don’t you worry, I won’t let you get squished ok? You just need to stick with me and be very careful crossing roads. Ok?
And happily he zooms back up to our front door motivated by the promise of pesto pasta for lunch.
But i can’t help thinking about my 3 year olds first foray with mortality. A stumble into a new world where not everything is safe and happy and centric. A little bit of innocence lost.
It seems somewhere between the ages of 3 and 4 there is a tipping point and we are teetering on the edge of it.
And the other side? It’s not quite so peachy.