Waldorf education encourages parents to let children “wonder” and not provide factual answers too soon. If a four-year-old asks how water comes out of the kitchen sink, we might smile and say “I wonder,” and the child can then come up with all sorts of creative and imaginative answers. We can play along. Perhaps, there is an ocean under our house, perhaps the water Gnome is busy pumping water into our pipes. When we provide children with too much factual information too soon, they start to lose their sense of wonder. When introducing a child to the color red, a Waldorf teacher might say this is the color of fire, this is the color of a strawberry, this is the color of a rose, without ever naming the color. Eventually, the child would come to know and identify the color red.
Cole wondered the other day if given the choice, would I want to know the date I would die. It feels like yesterday when he wondered if I could see the fairies in the autumn leaves. “No,” I said, “I wouldn’t.” He said he would choose to know his death date and wondered why I wouldn’t want to know. I explained that most of us like to be kept in denial about our own death, pretending it won’t happen. He thought about it a minute and said, “Mom, maybe you wouldn’t mind knowing when you were going to die if you didn’t have to know when anyone else was going to die.” I puzzled. Cole clarified, “Maybe people are less afraid of dying than they are of people close to them dying. I would never want to know when you were going to die.” I just looked at him in wonderment.
Do you have matter-of-fact conversations about death with those you love? Cole’s friends often talk about death together. I listen silently as they count up family members who have died, discuss funerals and current affairs. Teen suicide is on the rise and in the news, so being able to discuss death and understand its finality cannot be underestimated. Teens need to be free to wonder out loud about death. As adults, we need to stay open as they wonder and question death and eternity, without pat religious answers, lectures, dismay or fear. Wondering with our teens, instead of acting the knowing teacher can lead to reassuring insights. For instance, when Cole heard about Tyler Clementi, he wondered about his mother and felt sorry for her. He knows what it feels like to be left behind.
It’s hard to discuss death without drama. A good starting place is humor. For those of you who have been with loved ones as they have gone through the dying process, you have shared with me that humor is often the only place to start. A walk through the cemetery can spark interesting conversation. Family stories about relatives who have died seem to interest teens – as long as they don’t include a moral. The key is to find your level of openness, and to let wonder be a part of the conversation.
Please accept an invitation to wonder about death together on Odd; to have a conversation without drama, without facts, without moralizing; just pure wonderment. There is a survey on the right-hand sidebar of Odd titled, “Would you want to know the date and year you would die?”
Glad you were in my Odd neighborhood. Feel free to hang around with us any time. Odd Loves Company and odd loves you and you and you!! I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this blog, or on Facebook or Twitter
Thank you Nancy, for sharing this song its beautiful and reflects the tone of my post.
Cole and I like cemeteries; after breakfast this morning we took a drive through the neighborhood cemetery. We drove by this gravestone, without meaning any disrespect it did amuse us.