The news has been a bit overwhelming lately. My children have seen the Boston Marathon Bombing, the explosion of the Fertilizer Plant, the search for and capture of the Boston Marathon suspect. I have tried to explain things to them at a level I think they can understand.
I learned yesterday that I was far off on the explanation of the Fertilizer Plant. My ten year-old son, as my husband, both sons, and my toddler were pulling into a Wal-Mart parking lot, asked me what kind of plant is a "Fertilizer Plant." I told him that it is just a fertilizer plant. That was the kind of plant it was. He asked how a plant could cause such a big explosion. I told him that it was because fertilizer is flammable.
He then asked me something, to the effect of, why would someone grow a FERTILIZER plant if it is so flammable. I quickly answered, before thinking, that they had the fertilizer plant so people could grow things and have fertilizer. I then realized what he had been imagining. He thought that someone put a plant in the ground that grew fertilizer. He further thought that this plant exploded after catching fire and caused all the damage. He couldn't understand why anyone would ever have such a plant.
My husband and I then explained to him that this "plant" was another name for a factory. It was place where they made/stored fertilizer, which is very flammable. It soon made sense to him. I never thought that he would be imagining an actual tree or other kind of plant. I wondered how many other people had this vision in their head.
So, tonight at dinner, I asked my 8, soon-to-be 9, year-old daughter, what kind of plant she thinks a fertilizer plant is. She was the only child that wasn't with us yesterday, so I just wondered if she knew. She told me it must be something really hot, maybe a jalapeno plant. We then explained to her the same concept that it was a building, where someone works, that is called a plant. This made much more sense to her, as well.
I just wonder how many times, we as adults, assume that children understand that there are some words that have double meanings. I was glad that my son finally asked us about what kind of plant it was. He had been somewhat (considerably) concerned about the plants that could do so much damage and kill so many people. We were at Wal-Mart to buy seeds to start our garden. I just wonder if he was trying to make sure we weren't going to buy one of the "fertilizer plants."
I am in no way trying to make light of the explosion that killed and injured so many people, I am just trying to say that children might not understand everything they are hearing about these days. I realized I need to be a bit more thorough in my discussion with them. I was thankful that he felt like he could ask more questions and get answers.