In a deviation from his usual preoccupations smallest has become very interested in the natural world.This started with curiosity about the workings of Volcanoes.
Explaining how a volcano works to a 4 year old is no mean feat. Enter You Tube with its plethora of options to enable a level of understanding suitable for us both.
We selected a 7 minute programme hosted by “Mother Earth”, an animation which by my standards is hilarious and is a mine of information. Smallest is suitably impressed and we have watched this many times over the past week. Subsequently, at any given moment he has found the space to regurgitate his new found knowledge. “Lava is molten rock”, he says. “Yes”, I say. “Pompeii is in Italy”. I nod. “We are bundles of matter” he shouts. “Right”, I say.
Despite his fascination with Volcanoes his main interest appears to be Mother Earth herself. “Why is she called Mother Earth?”, he asks. I explain that we sometimes refer to our planet as Mother Earth, as she is the home of everything that lives and she keeps us alive , just like our Mums do I say . “Oh”, he says and stuffs a(nother) fig roll in his mouth.
Today we left early for our usual morning walk around the Abbey Field. In this journey we decide to walk past the site where the old Gym used to stand before it was knocked down four years ago. It’s been cordoned off by a wall of wooden fence panels, painted in anti-climb paint. We know this because there are signs dotted around on the fence panels with a picture of a Mammoth and the words warning anti climb paint written underneath. Obviously smallest queries the content of the signs and I tell him, explaining that Mamut is french for Mammoth. This sign is for a security company who must patrol the site.”What does it say?”, he asks again and I tell him that it says ‘Mamut’. “But this means Mammoth”, I add. “Mamut”,he says. “Yes, yes it ..means Mammoth”. Preferring the French smallest asks ,”Where are the Mammuts?”
“Pardon?”,I say. Smallest appears to be looking around the site.
“Where are they?” , he has stopped now and he is looking at the derelict gym site. “Oh no they are not there sweetheart they are extinct i say”. It’s just a picture. They are not there. I understand his confusion. He looks puzzled as if to say why is there a picture of a Mamut with a warning sign if there are no Mamuts there.
As we walk home he asks what extinct is and I explain that this is what happens when an animal used to exist but doesn’t anymore – maybe because they were all killed by another animal or even us. “killed by grown ups?”, he asks and I reply well maybe sometimes that happens.
I then continue to talk about the importance of looking after animals and of looking after ‘Mother Earth’. “Mother Earth?” he stops and looks at me. “How do we look after Mother Earth?” he looks at me. I talk about recycling, using less plastic, using litter bins and looking after the wildlife in our garden. All things which I think he can grasp and are relevant to his little life. Not wanting to lose his attention on this quite significant topic, I then rack my brains and drawing on his love of all things motorised, talk about using electric or petrol and not diesel vehicles. He asks why people drive diesel cars and I tell him ,”Some adults just like diesel motors”. It seems a ridiculous point to make. That we just like them. At this point I feel I have lost him – his stick is far more interesting and he’s shooting lava balls at passing cars. I stop talking and start thinking about tea.
Later in the evening we sit and watch the follow up to the Volcano video another Clip about volcanoes followed by a cartoon about the merits of recycling. Middlest sashays into the living room and says ,”what you watching?”, and ruffles his hair. Smallest sighs, “It’s recycling. How to look after Mother Earth.” I smile. There is a small silence,”I don’t think Grown ups are good for the earth. Children are. And Mammuts”.