My four year old and I were sitting on the couch reading a story this morning when he turned to me and ask, “Who was the first person born?”
So I said that his mom was older then me (by a whopping two weeks). No, that’s not the answer he wanted.
His great-grandmother (my grandmother) was the oldest in the family.
(kid) “So great-grandma was the first person born?”
(me) “Well, she is the oldest in the family.”
(kid) “No, daddy. That’s not the question I asked. How was the first person born? Who was their mommy and daddy?”
I was able to give a brief explanation that all life changed over time and then people were born (First there were… – making sure to include one of his favorites – dinosaurs). He bought it and went on to some more mundane questions before we got back to the book.
At that moment, I realized that a creation myth makes that explanation so much easier. Adam and Eve or any of the others from around the world would have been a nice story that he could better understand then evolution.
It also made me realize why many of my students over the years just can’t buy into evolution. If you grow up a Christian (as I did), one of the first stories you learn is about Adam and Eve. Noah and his arc are right there too. These stories are told as if they are pure fact. I can remember trying to figure out how the whole thing worked – how we got to where we are today, especially knowing that you shouldn’t marry your sister! Then you throw in the Tower of Babel and where dinosaurs fit in the bigger picture – and it just broke down. I stopped trying to accept it wholesale. When I was older I realized (or should I say came to believe) that these stories are more metaphorical and about teaching lessons. Like any cultural creation myth, it helped explain the unexplainable. However, I know there are others who see the Old Testament as more literal. Without delving into the science vs. religion debate, I understand both sides of the issue. I know I’ve simplified the matter, I’m not trying to explore this topic thoroughly.
Bruegel’s Tower of Babel is one of my favorite paintings. A copy of it even hangs in my classroom, minus the dinosaur, of course.
I don’t think I fully satisfied my son’s curiosity. The question will be asked again. I’ll have to do a little more preparing.