September 21, 1989

Kids Are Different From Grownups

What distinguishes children from adults is Innocence.

There is an old story about a child who asked his father "Where did I come from?" Papa, being a good parent, gave the kid the whole birds and the bees lecture. Then he asked "Was that what you wanted to know?" "Not exactly," junior replied, "Willy comes from Milwaukee; where do I come from?"

When our youngest son was small, he was playing on the floor when his mother tripped and accidentally kicked him in the mouth. She was more devastated than he was. He had a fat lip. The next day his teacher asked him what happened to his lip. He replied "My mother kicked me!" This happened many years ago. If it had happened today, with teachers being sensitive to the problem of child abuse, it could have resulted in serious problems. As it was, the teacher simply asked my wife what had really happened and they laughed about it together.

I could go on and on, but I think that you get my point. The ways that children see things, or express themselves, can be quite different from the way that a teacher or a parent would see it or say it. One day, many years ago, our cat brought a live mouse into the house. I killed the mouse and flushed it down the toilet. It was no big deal for me; I worked with mice and had to kill them all the time. I thought nothing of it, but my small daughter was devastated. I don't think that she ever forgave me for killing that mouse. I felt terrible for weeks.

After the movie Bambi came out, fathers who hunted deer were given a very very hard time by their little kids. "Why do you kill the deer, Daddy?" It's a hard thing for a father to explain. It is particularly hard because, if the father comes from a hunting culture, he may never have thought about it. He hunts because his father hunted and his father before him.

The first time that a farmer's child hears, from his father, that a steer he has known from birth will be slaughtered,, is a horrible time for both the child and the parents.

Now the woodsman is faced with the same thing that hunters and farmers have always had to face. Our kids are brought up with cartoons where animals and trees talk -and cartoons are real to small children. We are also living in a time when everyone is aware of conservation. Like it or not, it is a sign of our times. The world is full of movements to save endangered species and forests. It's a very difficult thing to deal with.

If you are a hunter, think back to how you felt when you shot your first small bird or squirrel. I'll bet that it wasn't only that flush of victory; it was tinged with sadness when you picked up that squirrel, looked at it and realized that it would never move again. Some hunters always have that feeling when they kill. I suspect that many loggers feel a twinge of remorse when they cut down an exceptionally beautiful tree.

I think that it's good that most people do not kill easily. We have to kill because we have to live. It's the one who first cuts down a deer, cow, chicken or tree who does the dirty work. We who use the wood or eat the meat must share the responsibility and, at least occasionally, the remorse. Thank you, woodsman, for sparing me the job of cutting down the old growth trees that I framed my house with. Thanks also to the man who kills the chickens and cattle.

Teaching kids the cruel realities of life is a "parent" job. It's one of the lousy parts of being a parent. You can't put it off onto the teachers. The logger has to teach his kids what he does and why he does it, just like the hunter, butcher or farmer.

Teachers of small children are usually very gentle people who are kind to children, animals and plants. Would you want them to be different?

I think that we should be glad that the teachers are teaching kids to be kind to living things. The children will learn the cruel realities of life when they have to --and it will come too soon. When they get older, the kids might even extend that kindness, that they learned from their first grade teacher, to people --maybe even to their parents.

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