Late on a Sunday night, I stumbled across a cry for help on a local facebook discussion group. A mother was frantic to replace a goldfish about 8-10cm long, gold in colour and all before morning. What a huge stress for a mum at 9:30pm at night. People were busy bumping the post and tagging people who they thought might have goldfish.
As it was posted on a community discussion page not a buy/sell/swap, I thought as a mother I might add to the discussion on some advice which I have found helpful when teaching my babes about life and death. I might add the chance of getting a replacement pet at that hour were getting slimmer and slimmer by the minute, and thinking, my little bit of advice could have been a sliver of salvation.
Well strike me down, that’s when the Facebook keyboard warriors got stuck into me. I don’t normally set out to stir someone up intentionally, but obviously I did in a big way.
Is it because we have always lived on the land we have found it terribly important to teach our children about the circle of life? Where there is birth there is also death. From a galah dying in a water trough to a calf that never took its first breath. Looking back over the years it appears we even had what seemed like a state funeral for a chicken that never even made it out of the shell. It was these moments as a family that our children learnt by observation a process, a skill that would be necessary and called upon many times in the years to come.
It had me thinking, as we on the land are exposed more to death, is my views so different to others? I than recalled a rather humours coffee night I have had with a bunch of great mums who all lived in town. The subject for the evening ‘somehow’ got onto what was buried in their suburban back yards. We had dead birds, fish, lizards, cats and dogs. Each of these families, and one especially seemed to have an entire animal grave yard in the back yard. This then lead to pet cemeteries …….. texts were sent, prices were discussed. In all a terribly great night for intense belly laughter. But all families thought it terribly important to teach and learn the process in their own way.
I then asked you lovely Facebook followers what your thoughts were on this subject. I thank you so kindly for sharing your losses and how you as a family have also coped and supported each other through these times. The consensus was that all of you were teaching your children the facts about the circle of life.
Has one essential element been taken away from those families who don’t have pets? On the land we face rather prejudiced discrimination that we are cruel to our animals. Only someone who has not been in our daily lives can say this. I know some of you reading would have spent hours getting a cow out of the bog, to get her finally to find her feet, only to turn on you and charge you back to your car as her ‘show of thanks’! This negativity was highlighted nationally with the devastating effects of the live export band in 2011 to cattle producers nationally. With all the animal right activists, getting their way, hatching chickens in classrooms have been pulled out of most schools as well. This was a perfect example of teaching children the cycle of life, and guess what – not all the eggs would hatch. This happens with a hen sitting with her own eggs too. But a perfect tool for our children to learn has been taken away!
This leaves it up to us, the ones who should be teaching our children this ever so delicate experience in life. Whether you are religious or non-religious will depend on what you will or won’t say. But I still believe it is the truth that needs to be told. There is no wrong or right way, and nobody knows where the lady looking for the goldfish replacement is in life.
But if you have children please, please, please think about how important a skill learning to grieve is to have. If you don’t have pets, search today, find a dead butterfly, grasshopper or even a beetle. With these teach your children, show by example how beautiful this life cycle can be. Unfortunately one day they will need these skills for those they love nearest and dearest to their hearts.
These are a few books for children if you want to add them to your library or heaps more on any search you do online:
Other author posts on the similar topic:
When a Pet Dies by Susan Brody
Teaching Our Son About Death, One Fish at a Time by Beth Kae Kanter
Losing a Pet – How to Help Your Toddler Deal with Death by What to Expect
Until next time, hug your babes both big and small.
Cheers Mrs Bindi