The Logic of a Two Year Old


by Terry Hogan

This isn’t about the "terrible twos." A grandfather would never write about those. Only parents talk about them. This article is about the perfectly logical, but wrong way that a bright two year old granddaughter can take independent bits of information, fit them together, and come up with a startling conclusion.

It all started when the phone rang at 3 AM on a Friday morning. You know that a 3 AM call is not going to tell you good news. It was our daughter who informed us that her father-in-law (the "other grandpa") had died in his sleep. The death was unexpected. She asked that grandma come over and stay with the grandkids while they went to the hospital and dealt with all that comes with this type of bad news.

The grandchildren are now five and two. Death is a hard thing for young children to understand, so we tread lightly and try not to go into details. But these kids are pretty bright. Both parents are veterinarians which undoubtedly "colors" the grandchildren’s perception of the world, as this story will show.

We watched the grandkids to see what levels of understanding they exhibited about this event. We were interested to see if they understood that one of the grandfathers would visit them no more. Neither seemed to be alarmed about the events, so we concluded that Nature prevented them from understanding too much too soon. Maturity and knowledge go hand in hand.

However, the little two year old granddaughter must have been pondering events a bit. She must have searched her memory banks for death and disease to apply the existing information against the new circumstances of the death of a grandfather. She must have recalled bits of vet "shop talk" between her mother and her father at the dinner table. She applied what she knew and what she heard. She put it all together into a mental construct that made sense to a two year old.

Out of the silence of a gloomy evening as a father, as a son, adjusts to the loss of his father. Out of the silence where a wife, where a mother, tries to find the right word, right gesture, or perhaps the right amount of silence and distance, a little voice was heard. It was a little girl’s voice. It was the voice of their daughter. It was the voice of the granddaughter, who had thought it all through and worked it all out.

Out of the silence, came the little voice, "Grandpa must of got worms and died."

She got it wrong. But she got it right. The little voice filled the void. It was the voice of the new pronouncing the passage of the voice of the old. Life comes. Life goes. Life takes a whack at making sense out of the unknown or only partially understood. Logic abhors that which is not understood.

"Grandpa must of got worms and died."