It's a tricky one (note the 'St.' in the title) for we Jewish types. Do we shun St. Valentine's for having the nod to a Christian saint? Do we laugh at the faux Christian angle and focus on the luuurrve bit? Do we wave the whole thing off as a trumped up excuse for women to recieve expensive gifts and men to sweat about their potential inadequacy as romancers? Or do we accept that especially we staid married folks could use a nudge to remember to appreciate and be loving to our partners?
Coincidentally, the Eldest had arranged to teach his class about blood and hemophilia on Feb 14th, and so off to school we went, armed with red, white and purple balloons (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets), a giant cardboard tube that we'd all painted red (big enough for children to crawl through!) and a big red four piece puzzle, that I'd cut and the Eldest had decorated with different cells and clotting proteins.
Then we asked the kids what blood was. Uniformly, they told us that blood was a red liquid, like water. The Eldest had seen blood under a microscope, courtesy of the head hematologist at our Hemophilia Treatment Center. He responded handily to his classmates, using our red blood puzzle to show them that this 'red water' was in fact made of different parts. Below, the Eldest explains about platelets.
The blood puzzle was lots of fun, and the kids tried putting it together repeatedly. But when we pulled out our giant tube (blood vessel) and asked them to repair a hole with our red, white cells and platelets (mylar balloons), they found themselves unable to make a strong clot.
Hm. Maybe a net would help?
I pulled out a net, and we tried wrapping it around the balloon-cells. Yes, this worked better. But how to create a net? Well, said the Eldest delightedly, for this you need factor. And we demonstrated the domino-style factor-to-fibrin net process, and showed them how one missing factor could bring it all to an ominous halt.
Wide eyed, the kids took it in. They tried out the domino-process over and over, and peppered us with questions. The idea that blood parts work as a team, that factor proteins work as a team, was all very clear to them. Of course! said the kindergartners. Sometimes it takes a group to get a job done.
But when you are missing one of the group members? What then? The children stopped, and thought hard. This was worrying. This was disturbing. They looked to the Eldest for answers, and he showed them what we do. Pausing first, of course, while I lectured them on why nobody but experts should poke people with needles. I pointed at the beloved home care nurse who'd trained me (and held my hand, listened to me wail, hugged me and, and, and), and sternly informed the children that she had to say that you were ready to use a needle. And then I used one.
Nobody but the wriggling Eldest cared that I blew the vein, they were too busy asking questions.
- Is that why you always have those bandaids on your arms?
- Why does your body know how to make all of the other factors, but not this one?
- Does it hurt when you get the medicine?
- I got a needle poked in me by the doctor when I had my checkup! Why is your mom doing this to you?
- How many factors are there in the world? There's six billion people...said the wee mathematician.
We left the blood puzzle for the children to use, and I took my leave. By the end of the day, requests had filtered in for the Eldest to repeat his performance for some of the upper grades. He kindly agreed.
My take on this? Well, where hemophilia was concerned, I'd had hopes that the Eldest would be able to fly under the radar. And had his prophylaxis been more effective, he would have. But it didn't work out that way, and so here we are. My father was strongly opposed to letting the Eldest teach his friends about hemophilia, worrying that it will mark him as different. Will the children accept this difference? Will they have empathy? I thought so, but wondered whether the hemo/blood presentation would highlight this difference in a good way.
This http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/345311_empathy29.html?source=mypi is fascinating.
Found through Cameron, who has this http://cmccurry.livejournal.com/430667.html to say on the subject of empathy. I'm of the opinion that empathy is modeled and innate. Children are by nature self-centred, but not necessarily exclusively so. And when difference is presented (and modeled) as non-threatening, a culture of acceptance is one in which even the most ordinary kid can thrive.
But maybe I have to think that.