As adults, we already know from our own experiences that life is hard. Explaining this to our children, plus helping them deal with their own hardships as they get older, is not quite so easy.
However, there is help. A new children’s book tackles this problem admirably and examines the mystery of suffering and pain. Why Do Things Hurt? is exquisitely illustrated and is an excellent tool for parents to discuss this big question with their children, mentally preparing them for the travails of life.
“Life is hard, but we make it harder,” said Ryan Holiday. True words. If we refuse to accept that truth, we make it harder for ourselves and our children. Especially if we don’t tell them the truth!
Every parent wants to protect their offspring. That is perfectly natural — right? Mothers are often more protectionist than fathers (in our family anyway), and that is why children need a mother and a father. Mothers nurture and protect; fathers encourage their children to take risks. The truth is always in the tension.
Fathers instinctively know that children need to experience the pain of poor decisions. Call it the law of consequence. Call it what you will, our children need to confront reality, as do we as parents.
Dr Jordan Peterson is excellent on this subject, in the sense that he is a relatively positive person, but also acknowledges that life can be brutal. This short interview gives insight into this reality and how to deal with it.
Recently, Ruth Oates, the author of Why Do Things Hurt? sent me a copy of her book. In it, which she wrote and illustrated, she addresses the topic on almost every girl’s or boy’s lips at some stage in their childhood.
A subvariant, but perhaps the deeper question is the age-old, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people?’
These are difficult questions for adults, but perhaps even harder to answer when it comes to our children.
This book is an excellent resource to help children deal with such a subject. I am a fan of children’s books. I have read a lot to my children over the years, and my four-year-old grandson often calls on me to read to him. There is a lot of research to show that when fathers read to their children, it can be more beneficial than mothers reading to them. Of course, it is never either/or, but always both/and.
I have detailed a lot of this research in a previous article titled ‘10 Reasons Why Dads Should Read to Their Children’.
Why Do Things Hurt? is about a young girl having an operation to remove her tonsils. Ruth Oates, as a former teacher, mother and grandmother, has it all together as a storyteller.
Despair and Hope
The big bonus of this book is that it tackles the ‘why’ questions, the ones that are hard for us parents to answer.
Whenever you start asking ‘why’, questions of faith come into focus. As a much younger man in the mid-eighties, when my world crashed due to a business collapse, it seemed like I was a total failure. At one point, the thought of suicide crossed my mind. It was my faith and my family that kept me anchored.
A business colleague, who had walked a similar journey, sent me a Bible verse: “He has led me and made me walk in darkness and not light.” That verse in Lamentations did not totally answer my ‘why’ question, but it sure kept my sanity and helped me walk through the fire of losing everything.
Life is tough and sometimes things can really hurt. Having that conversation through a beautifully illustrated children’s book is something from which both us and our children can benefit.
Beauty and Pain
I was further astounded to learn that all of the illustrations in Why Do Things Hurt? were made by Ruth Oates from coloured plasticine, and each picture was specifically sculptured in the most vibrant manner. As someone with a keen appreciation for fine art, I think the actual illustrations are staggeringly brilliant and worth the price of the book for them alone.
I asked the author why she wrote the children’s book in the first place. Ruth said that it was addressing her own personal challenges that brought it to fruition. Personally, she has lost six family members in the past seven years, and now has several adult children who have debilitating and painful chronic illnesses, plus a husband with terminal cancer.
Yes, life can be tough, and we must tell our children the truth while they are still young. Who better to tell them than Mum or Dad? And a simple way to do that is by reading this beautiful book, suitable for children between 4 and 12, as well as adult readers.
Written by Warwick Marsh, Founder of Dads4Kids