Happened to renovate my window garden, of late. I was hoping the monsoons will make it grow more vibrant and green. My 6 yr old son loves being my assistant in DIY gardening projects. He is the one who does puts the seeds and saplings in the planters and flower pots.
So we started off planting flowering plants, herbs and shrubs, in full swing – Curry leaves, ginger plant, turmeric root, Holy Basil (Krishna Tulsi). The plants grew fast – especially the curry leaf plant; it turned out to be tall and green. Just two days later we found four little worms chewing up all the healthy leaves. My immediate reaction was to try and brush them off. That is when my son tells me, “Mom just leave them alone. Poor things!” I tried to make him understand that they were pests unlike the butterfly larvae who would build cocoons and emerge as beautiful fluttering mascots of freedom. But then, I decided to let him learn his lesson on his own.
Soon they turned into big fat caterpillars, voraciously gorging up all healthy curry leaves. One day, I could see just one. Looked like the birds had made a feast of the other three caterpillars. There was just one green little fellow left on the plant. That is when I decided to take this picture. The very next day, this last one was nowhere to be seen, I guess it must’ve fallen prey to birds. My son was upset.
It is a bit difficult to explain to kids – The concept of life and death, why it all happens, the value of life, ethical principles of life, moral values – why we end up prioritizing certain living organisms over the others and so on..
I then told him this – Some situations are in our control – You chose to let the caterpillar live, prioritizing the caterpillar over the curry leaf plant. But some situations are beyond control. You were not present when the birds ate the caterpillars. So you could not save it. The caterpillar could not take his treasure trove of green curry leaves along with him, forever.
There are extremely poor people in drought stricken and war torn countries, with no food to eat or clean water to drink. Sometimes, a mother there has to choose between her children; which one to feed and to let which one die. I did not tell him this, though – It sounded so gross. But I told him of unfortunate orphans who have to fend for themselves, just because their parents were no more. The idea was, to make my son realize these facts –
1. Life and Death are not choices we make. They are beyond our control. So we must not worry so much about either one of them.
2. Material possessions do not matter when we die and go to God uncle’s home in the skies. That is the way I explained death – We all go to God uncle’s home in the beautiful blue skies when our time on earth is over.
3. He must thank God for what he has, besides being a compassionate human being who contributes to the welfare of the poor in cash, kind and otherwise, when he grows up.
This may sound too ‘Preachy’ and all, but these questions are asked by kids. We are often at a loss of words. I was. The caterpillar incident helped me to make my little one get a new perspective on facts of life and death. Of course, these led to a lot of counter questions. But that is left for each mom to handle on her own, as each child and each counter question is different.
A few core values and ethical principles must be inculcated in every human being especially children, I feel, quite strongly.