Out of the mouths of babes

My sons have taken an interest in war recently and I’ve found it quite interesting to answer their many questions within their present scope of consciousness. Four and five year olds can surprise you with their wisdom, though at the same time they know very little about the world and the many twists and turns of human nature.

I was putting my sons to bed the other night after watching the movie, Valiant. Set in wartime Europe, Valiant tells the tale of a hodgepodge squadron of British carrier pigeons enlisted to carry the most important message of the war from deep within enemy territory (patrolled by German falcons) to Allied HQ. The movie is delightful, and I recommend it if you are in the mood for a light and entertaining animated film.

The post-movie questions, as expected, were both charming and challenging. My boys were curious, for one, as to why the Allied Commander changed the attack location after learning the the German falcons had intercepted the pigeons’ message, which essentially detailed the Allied D-Day strategy. I’m still chuckling about their questions and suggestions. The conversation went something like this:

Eldest Son: Daddy, why did the Commander change where they ships were going to attack?

Me: Well, their enemy discovered their plans, so they needed a new way to surprise their enemy so that they could win the war.

Eldest Son: But if their enemy was surprised they might get mad and send their bad guys after their soldiers.

Me: Good point, but if they surprised them, their enemy might not be ready to fight. If they’re not ready to fight it would be easier to beat them and win the war.

A long pause…

Youngest Son: I have a better surprise. They should shoot presents through their cannons.

Me (holding by a chuckle): That’s a great idea and that really would be a surprise!

Eldest Son: That would never happen.

Me (curious to see where he was going with this): Why not?

Eldest Son: They wouldn’t have time to build cannons with a barrel big enough to fit really big presents for the worst bad guys.

Me: True enough, boys. Loving your enemies is a great way to end a war. Now good night!

This conversation followed on the heels of another I had with my eldest son on the way to school that morning. We were discussing oceanic pollution, a topic popularized no doubt by our recent trip to the beach, and he asked me:

“Daddy, do you think that one day enough mothers could have babies that only made good decisions and those babies would help everyone see that pollution is not a good idea for the earth?”

I replied something to the effect that I certainly hoped so, but that there would have to be leaders and teachers who could set an example, just as I set an example for him and he sets an example for his younger brother. I could tell by the look in his eyes and his peaceful demeanor that he relished the thought.

I have been accused of naiveté and groundless optimism by detractors much more cynical than myself, realists who stake their pessimism on the immutability of human nature, but when I hear such words coming from the mouths of babes I am encouraged that there is still hope for humanity.

What inspires you?

14 thoughts on “Out of the mouths of babes

  1. Colin

    I think it would surprise most people what the ability to truly forgive does to people that don’t like you. I’ve found that it totally disarms them. I don’t think this is a naive idea at all, but it shows that you are willing to think differently than most. This ability to be unafraid to be different than the norm is where the truly enlightened ideas come from, though it is by no means an easy road. Thank you for being one of the parents that is interested enough to put in the work that it takes to raise children correctly.


  2. Lady Leo

    This post made me think of this little poem I’ve always appreciated, sort of the essence of loving your enemies.

    “Life Is Mostly Froth And Bubble” by Adam Lindsay Gordon

    Life is mostly froth and bubble,
    Two things stand like stone;
    Kindness in another’s trouble,
    Courage in your own.


  3. McJ

    Loving your enemies is usually thought of as such as weak answer. But in reality what a powerful skill you are teaching your sons. Dishonor is not what is done to a person but what comes out of a person.
    Great story. I love how children’s thoughts are usually geared to solving a problem.
    Sometimes they do hit the nail on the head!!!!


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  5. Coco

    What inspires me is, people with “groundless optimism” who take the time to teach the next generation that belief in the possibility of a better world is not naiveté but part of the way to keep the opportunity open to us. Yes there is a long way to go but it starts with people believing we still have the time and power to shape a better future for our world.
    Nice job. Personally I like the present idea and gift cards are always convenient, they fit in any size cannon!


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