I am learning that four year olds are inquisitive, and you can never quite predict what is going to come out of their mouths and when. My 4 year old is in the normal phase of asking question after question on how things work, where things come from, and why things are they way they are. He is just trying to understand how his world works. To me, it gives me a fascinating insight to how his little brain works and to see the world from his eyes.
This week I was reminded of all that when I took the kids on routine trip to the grocery store. Without fail, when we walk near the fish counter, Joey must pay a visit to the big lobster tank to say hi to all the lobsters. He just loves to stare that them and watch them crawl around each other. Some days it is hard to pull him away, and this day was no exception. But soon I was able to drag him away so we could complete our shopping. Then he starts asking me questions about the lobsters’ eyes, and where their mouths are and what they eat. Since I am not really an expert on lobster anatomy and such, so I usually tell him my best guess and recommend that we look it up when we get home.
Then Joey asks, “Mommy, what do people DO with the lobsters?”
“Well honey, they take them home and cook and eat them,” hoping that would be the end of it.
“Cook and eat them? Why do they do that?” he asks.
“Because lobster is delicious,” I answer him, part of me wondering what the heck he thought they were for… decorations?
“Well how do people cook them, put them on a fire?” he then asks.
GULP… Oh boy. Now I know how lobsters are cooked, and really I never gave the way they meet their demise before they make it to my plate much of a thought. But how does throwing something into a super hot pot of water to boil alive sound to a 4 year old? In my mind, I’m trying to find a way to gently tell him about the (torturous?) way lobsters come to their end and decide that the truth is probably the best way.
“They way lobsters are cooked is that they get put in a super hot pot of boiling water for a few minutes and when they turn bright red, they are done cooking and ready to eat.”
“Well mommy, when people try to eat them, won’t their claws pinch their mouths?”
“Um… no honey, after you cook a lobster, they are no longer alive so their claws no longer work,” I told him.
I look at him waiting for the next question… “Oh, okay,” he says. Then seemingly drops the conversation. That was enough for his 4 year old brain at that moment.
Oh boy. Lessons on life and death and where the things we eat really come from. All that can come up in one little conversation about lobsters.
The whole thing made me laugh a little an I knew that he would probably bring it back up again (he did). When I thought more about it, it made sense that usually the food we take home and eat (specifically meat or most seafood) is not alive and walking (or swimming) around. It has already been taken care of and packaged for us to take home to cook. So when he brought up the cooking of lobsters again later, we made comparisons to the chicken or beef that we eat that were once walking around on a farm before it made it to our store and to our table. And really for a 4 year old, we don’t need to go into much more detail on the in between for HOW they got there. It’s interesting to see his wheels turning while he processes how it all works.
So will he actually try lobster? Are you kidding me? This is my picky eater we are talking about. Though we told him how yummy we think lobster is (not that we go on eating lobster all the time), he is not so convinced.
Next life lesson that has come up in the last 24 hours… How is the baby is going to come out of mommy’s belly? Since I did not quite know the appropriate 4 year old answer at the moment, I told him that we would talk about it later. So I better figure it out before he asks again (and he will very soon).