September 22, 2007

Bits and pieces

Out the window

With-a-Why is a quiet, serious child, the youngest in a noisy, chaotic household. Most of my conversations with him take place during bits of time sandwiched between other events of the day, during those odd moments when he and I are alone together. Yesterday morning, for instance, he sat next to me in the waiting room at the orthodontist's office and read over my shoulder while I wrote a blog post on my laptop. He loves to point out typos. And we talked that afternoon on the way to his piano lesson. Here are a few topics we covered during the ten-minute drive from the junior high building to the music studio.

With-a-Why: You know that blog post you were writing at the orthodontist's this morning?
Me: Yeah.
With-a-Why: Did you put it up already?
Me: Yeah. When I got home.
With-a-Why: I was thinking. You should have started out with the tips you were giving your students for the introductions, like "Be vague and general." Then people would have been like, oh, she sucks as a teacher. And then you could have said you were having them write bad introductions on purpose.
Me: Yeah, that would've been a better approach.
With-a-Why: It would've been a better introduction.

Me: You need to wash your hair tonight.
With-a-Why: Why?
Me: So it'll be clean.
With-a-Why: Why does that matter?
Me: Because if you don't take showers and wash your hair, you'll smell.
With-a-Why: So what if I smell? It will protect me from predators.
Me: But you're a human.
With-a-Why: (Shrugs.)
Me: And humans are social beings. You live in the human world.
With-a-Why: The world doesn't belong to the humans. That's a ridiculous thing to say.
Me: Anyhow, predators use smell to find their prey. I think a strong smell would be a bad thing.
With-a-Why: What about sow bugs?
Me: Sow bugs?
With-a-Why: Or skunks. Some animals use smells to ward off predators.
Me: But humans don't.

With-a-Why: Do they dissect animals at Small Green College?
Me: What?
With-a-Why: Do they dissect animals?
Me: Uh, yeah. In the labs. In courses like zoology.
With-a-Why: Do they kill them or do they use animals already dead?
Me: Well, sometimes it's roadkill. Whenever my students see a dead animal on the road, they put it in their freezer.
With-a-Why: But do they buy animals to kill?
Me: Well, I think they must.
With-a-Why: We're supposed to do dissections in science next year. For eighth grade.
Me: I remember that when Red-haired College Roommate went through medical school, she had to dissect humans.
With-a-Why: That's different.
Me: What do you mean?
With-a-Why: The humans have agreed to donate their bodies.
With-a-Why: And when humans agree to donate their bodies, it doesn't happen until after they've died of something else. They don't agree to be killed.
Me: Yeah, that's true.
With-a-Why: Well, I am not going to do dissections. It's wrong.
With-a-Why: The animals didn't agree to be killed.
Me: Well, they can't make you do something you think is wrong.
Me: Just make sure you are prepared to explain why you think it's wrong.
With-a-Why: Well, it's sort of obvious.
Me: Not everyone thinks like that.
With-a-Why: Did you do a dissection?
Me: In high school, I did.
Me: The fetal pig was kind of creepy. It looked kind of human inside.
With-a-Why: Would you do one now?
Me: Well, I would with roadkill or something like that.
Me: Dissections can be fascinating.
With-a-Why: Not for the animal being dissected.


ppb said...

What a cool kid!
Does he like being just the 2 kids at home with all that adult time, or is it lonely?

jo(e) said...

PPB: He's happiest when all his siblings and extras are home. Luckily, Boy in Black comes home pretty often -- and we still have a houseful of extras on weekends.

What he really likes is when I let him take a day off from school to spend with just me. That way, he gets one-on-one time, but doesn't feel like he's missing anything.

purple_kangaroo said...

He's such a deep thinker!

Yankee T said...

I love With-a-Why. I love all your kids, come to think of it.

Teri said...

amen on the animal not finding dissection fascinating!

I love reading conversations with your kids. They (and you) are so intelligent, it's refreshing to read the dialogue of people who use their brains.

Songbird said...

Oh, gracious, fetal pigs. Been there, and felt much like With-a-Why. But it never occurred to me a person could opt out for reasons of conscience. And maybe we couldn't have then.

Nadine said...

I opted out of the fetal pig in AP bio my senior year. When I was in college I was horrified one night when I went up to my plant lab and found the anatomy kids had taken over the space to work on their dissections. I fled hastily.

kathy a. said...

with-a-why is so deeply thoughtful.

in retrospect, i think doing dissections was useful to me. i'm a city girl. learning i could deal with the squeamishness of seeing body parts exposed -- that was big.

liz said...

He's a thinker, that one.

Many of the fetal pigs sent for dissection are from stillbirths. We got a few very, very tiny ones for our lab last year that were certainly stillbirths. They're harder to work with, but are easier on the conscience.

liz said...

Remember, fetal pigs are just that: fetal. They haven't ever drawn breath (as that would make it hard to see certain aspects of the anatomy).

zhoen said...

Very dangerous, people who think around corners like that. (Which is good.)

KathyR said...

What a sweetie he is.

And I remember being threatened with the fetal pig and/or the frog but only had to do the cow eyeball.

Which was gross.

Busymomma66 said...

Ahhh, thank goodness for lab partners. I took all the notes and my friend at the time did all the dissecting.

My son (who just started 8th grade) has only done owl pellets. I don't know what he'd think of doing frogs, fetal pigs and such. Personally I'm with your son!!

Mike said...

I love it! Children are fantastic and look at the world in wonderful ways. I have just worked out you are female. Here in UK Joe is male and Jo female.

Patti said...

We weren't allowed to decline doing what we thought was wrong, so I just skipped that day my class was dissecting fetal pigs.

Kyla said...

I love With-a-Why. What a cool kid.

And the photo is spectacular!

Rana said...

I did okay when the disections were limited to isolated body parts - heart, eyeball - but dealing with whole animals...

I really, really was into biology as a kid, but I couldn't overcome my feelings of distress when dealing with entire dead animals. There was the time when we were given a choice of watching a frog disection, or singing songs in the gym; I chose the disection, but became light-headed and had to leave. Then there was the moment when I realized that if I wanted to continue in AP biology, I would have to disect a cat senior year.

It's a shame, really, that disection was so essential. I think I would have made a good botanist, or a field biologist - neither of which depend on animal disection - but neither was an option unless you jumped the disection hurdle first.

A- said...

Is the sky really closer than it appears? Please do say it's so!