There's this false notion that kids don't have any idea what the "real" world is like. That they don't know the realities of life, the depression, the hardships. They don't know just how cruel or evil some people can be. But I think that's mostly a hunk of baloney.
I say mostly because yes, kids are naive, but I also know that my toddler understands people's emotions and how to make a situation better without me having to tell him to do so. If I'm sitting down and wallowing in self-pity, or one of my friends are family members are sad, he senses it, walks up to them, puts his head on their lap and goes, "Awww" and then kisses them. Or sometimes he'll pretend to hurt himself so then the roles are reversed and now you have to baby him, forcing you to stop feeling bad for yourself. It's brilliant.
When he gets bored, it's usually because people aren't excited about anything in the room. And I'm not talking about jumping up and down excitement, I'm talking about just being happy to be in the presence of friends and family or talking about something that matters to them. He can feel the dead energy and he constantly rages against it whether it's with dancing, playing, or throwing a tantrum to get what he wants because the situation is so low-level.
I just think that kids don't get nearly enough credit for being as perspicacious as they can be, and we tend to beat that emotional and situational awareness out of them by telling them not to worry about certain things or ignoring them. And seeing this first-grader's answer to a riddle about the alphabet only adds to my conviction in that belief.
Teacher Bret Turner proposed this supposed-to-be-cute exercise to his first-grade class. But this kid's answer was anything but cute.
It was pretty darn heavy.
The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the class that I didn’t want to tell them that actually the answer is the letter e, which just seemed so banal in the moment pic.twitter.com/7sYFxHNcZk— Bret Turner (@bretjturner) January 2, 2018
What's most interesting is that none of the kids were thinking about the silly little "e" answer. They were more concerned with the big picture.
Before I finally revealed the "correct" answer to the riddle, to a largely unimpressed audience, I fielded other guesses that continued along a similarly existential vein. There was "NOT everything," "all stuff," "the end," and maybe my favorite, "nothingthing."— Bret Turner (@bretjturner) January 3, 2018
To be honest, I feel like "nothingthing" most of the time.
Turner was surprised that his tweet went viral and thought that he would share the news with the kids in his classroom, but suspects they're not going to be as easy to impress.
I’m considering telling the kids tomorrow that a tweet about them went viral, and given their facility with the internets, I expect their response will be “sure but did it go SUPERviral” and “just how many retweets are we talking about here” and “can I go to the bathroom”— Bret Turner (@bretjturner) January 4, 2018
People began chiming in on ways to make the "banal" answer seem a little more alluring to children.
Too late, but a cushion to the seeming banality of the final answer might be that Odin hung himself upside down for three days to gain the wisdom of letters... what magical things, that allow us to know another's words across time and space!— 🌹 Helen South 🌿 (@helsouth) January 3, 2018
And I'd say that lesson would be too advanced for Turner's class, but it seems like they're definitely more than ready for it.
That goes into my next unit, "Cushioning Banality Through Germanic And Norse Mythology."— Bret Turner (@bretjturner) January 3, 2018
Not everyone was as impressed by the student's answer, however.
please, seriously, get that poor kid some help. When I was 6, I would have said bunnies, or the Virgin Mary, or something else warm and fuzzy.— Melodiousness (@furmple) January 3, 2018
But others chimed in that just because someone is young doesn't mean that they don't know about death.
I grew up on a farm with great grandparents, grandparents, parents & siblings--all sorts of animals, woods, crops. People & things die--you know that almost from the start so it's not something hidden or pathological.— Christina Leimer (@humanvisionary) January 4, 2018
And others think that children aren't listened to enough, or else we would know that they're capable of existential thought.
Adults in general and sadly, parents in particular, lack the most basic understanding of how important it is for a child to be actively LISTENED to. Instead of the “ah huh” while throwing together dinner or being on line.— Sightation📎🐾 (@sightation) January 4, 2018
And of course, a thread of jokes occurred, because this is Twitter, people.
"Now I am become E ..." - Bhagavad Gita, revised edition— Joseph McConnell (@jfmcluggage) January 3, 2018
Today's existential crisis was brough to you by: The Letter E— the sun, but mad (@sleeperslayer) January 3, 2018
Imagining you saying, “Yes. That is correct. It’s Death.”— mike fleisch (@mikefleisch) January 3, 2018
Wow Billy that was deep... also please remember dont eat the paste— Pochassic (@Pochassic) January 3, 2018
I mean, they kept coming.
Entelechy ("the conditions by which potentiality becomes actuality" in Aristotle) also seems relevant here.— Schrödinger's Trump (@SchrodngrsTrump) January 3, 2018
So if anyone wants to argue that kids don't think of anything past cookies and how they can swindle you into watching Paw Patrol with them, just look at the tweet storm one first-grader's answer to a riddle caused.