Miss C and her cousin Josh are 10 months apart.
They adore each other. He is a tender soul, and when she gets a bit bossy, he goes into his own world.
This morning, I was watching Josh at his house. We arrived and he asked Miss C if she wanted to play Star Wars. She said yes.
They began digging through Josh's box of characters, and Miss C was looking for the pants wearing princess, Princess Leia.
"Where is she? Where is Princess Leia, Josh?"
Josh: "I don't know."
C: "Josh, where is Princess Leia?"
Josh: "I don't know."
C: "Josh, I don't see her. Where could she be?"
Josh: "I think they killed her."
C: "Who killed her?"
Josh: "The bad guys."
C: "What does 'killed' mean?"
Josh: (says nothing)
C: "Josh, what does 'killed' mean?"
Josh: (still quiet)
C: "Who killed her? And what does 'kill' mean? Josh?"
Josh: "I don't know. I think you should ask your mom."
I wandered through the room, but neither Miss C asked about 'kill', nor Josh. When they didn't find Leia, C wanted to play instead with the octopus and sea creatures. And they did.
Josh has seen all the Star Wars films. He knows all the characters, all the plot and story lines, and who is of the Dark and who is of the Light.
But it was interesting hearing him fall silent when asked what "kill" meant.
I don't believe it was him protecting C from the information, though that is possible.
I think that though Josh gets what kill means, he can't explain it yet without using the word kill.
He knows how it is presented in the movies.
But, anticipating the question, I wondered myself, "What does kill mean?"
How would a 4 year old, such as Josh, explain this concept to a 3 year old?
It's different than dying, die, dead, all of which C has asked about in conversation. She asked about it when we found a dead chipmunk in the road. When a young cousin with health problems died. When we talk about a grandparent she never met.
But kill. Killed. Have killed.
That's a little bit different.
The pause that Josh made might have been his own mind searching for a way to communicate that, and possibly coming up blank.
He might be able to act it out, with light sabers. But the language that informs the actions is still developing.
The space in between the action and the understanding: it's where an octopus and sea turtle can come in handy.