Friday, October 21, 2011

Kindergarten Gurus (or, Wasps get mad at this time of year"

Kindergarten Gurus (Waterloo, 2011)

Today, walking down the hill to the bus stop, my 5 year old stopped.

"A dead wasp!" He looked at the perfect, still body. "It looks just the same, but dead."

I was impatient. In a hurry. I didn't want to miss the bus.

"Yes, yes, wasps die in October. Keep walking!" My 4yo daughter and I were far enough ahead that he needed to run to keep up.

"Why?" he asked.

"Why what?"

"Why do wasps die in October?"

"Because it's cold." I threw it out, a little dismissive.

My daughter piped up at the same time. "Because they're done getting all the pollen."

This time I stopped, just for a second. I smiled. She's such a show-off.

"That too," I conceded, feeling bested by a master. I gave them both a hug. We walked.

"Wasps are just like robots," my son offered.

"Yes, they are basically like robots, programmed to get pollen. Like a light bulb. When we turn on the switch, we send electricity to the light bulb and it lights up, because that's what it does." They nodded. They've heard this before. "When we turn the switch off, it stops the electricity, and the bulb is off."

They stumbled over each other to talk, and my son won out. I never quite know how to navigate these squabbles - I don't want to reward this kind of pushiness (though it does have some practical value in some circumstances), and I don't want to sidetrack the conversation. I'll admit, this time I let it go. My son said,

"So they die, and then in spring new ones get borned, just the same kind of robots that get pollen. Because there's no flowers in winter. So we don't need these old ones anymore. So we pull out our electricity, and they fall down dead."

"That's one interesting way to look at it."

"Everything's a robot," he proclaimed. "We're robots, and cars are robots and birds and everything is just robots with electricity."

My daughter piped up.

"Noooo..." she said, almost laughing, almost sarcastic. "They're not just robots."

"No?" I asked. "Why?"

"Robots don't get mad. Wasps get mad at this time of year."

She was quoting me - I've said "Wasps get mad at this time of year" many times in the past couple of months. But she tied that back herself to the concept that the wasps can't be robots because they feel emotion. She identified a key concept of being "alive."

"That's true." I responded. And then, "Unless the robots are programmed to get mad when they're about to die..."

"All of everything gets mad when it's about to die," said my son with certainty. "We like to be alive."

We arrived at the bus stop. They mounted the stairs to the bus, almost too high for their legs. My kindergarten gurus.