3B has long been fascinated by war. Well, war-related topics, really.
It started back when we took him to a local farm-team baseball game, which started, of course, with the Star-Spangled Banner. He’d been to other events that did too, but in the smaller venue of the farm team bleachers, it was much more striking to him. And he asked, innocently enough, “What’s the Star-Spangled Banner?”
In the manner of If You Give a Cat a Cupcake… the questions followed…
- Why did we fight the British?
- Who won? (Well, we don’t speak English today, do we? Er…waitaminnit.)
- Who was George Washington? (I have to admit that initially I told him it described the Revolutionary War before I remembered it was from the War of 1812.)
- Who was the British General?
- Why didn’t we want a king? (Also related to my Revolutionary War misinformation)
- Why did we want a president? (See previous)
- Why did the British burn our Capitol?
- …and our White House?
- Where’s Fort McHenry?
And with that last one, we were off to Fort McHenry. (Yes, we did also visit the actual banner at the Smithsonian, but c’mon, that doesn’t hold a candle to a fort with cannons and guns and soldiers…OK, reenactors dressed as soldiers.)
That, of course, brought on more questions about cannons, forts and so forth.
Just two nights ago, 3B picked out for a bedtime story a book that is an illustrated version of the Star-Spangled Banner–every verse of it. The illustrations also, of course, lead to more questions about the items and places pictured: boats, Bunker Hill, British soldiers, etc.
Along the way, we’ve explained that war means killing, but that hasn’t really sunk in with 3B. First, death is hard to understand. Second, trying to kill someone else is likely incomprehensible to him. Finally, killing at that scale is definitely incomprehensible to him. But, we don’t want to sugarcoat it, so when the conversation leads there, we explain it. That plants a seed that will later grow into more questions.
But sometimes what’s incomprehensible at a baseball game or a fort or in a game of 20 questions with your parents is made all too clear through a narrative. 3B’s recently been really into the Magic Treehouse books, and the last time we went to the library he picked out another dozen or so to read. Two nights ago, Mama read through the book on the Civil War with him.
In that book, Jack and Annie end up at a Civil War battlefield, helping Clara Barton and the other nurses and doctors tend to the wounded and dying. Jack, who had always thought war was cool, learns that it’s not…and so did 3B. Last night, when I asked him which book he wanted to read at bedtime, I offered the Civil War book up, and he replied to the effect that war is cruel and bloody and terrible.
So he chose to read the Magic Treehouse book about knights and castles…oh man, we may never go to the Renaissance Faire again.