Lately, Jonathan has been doing snippets from Aristotle. The Aristotle. He can make anything accessible to little ones. He’ll often read them something normal and contemporary, like Dragon Pizzeria, but we are nothing if not chronologically inclusive. So while the girls brush their teeth, I’ll see him ruffling through Nicomachean Ethics to prep for bedtime stories. The other night they were talking about different kinds of good things.
“Some things are just for fun,” Jonathan said.
“Like eating candy!” said Meg.
“Right! And other things, you do them so you can get something else when you’re done.”
“Like CLEANING UP,” Meg said.
I laughed. “True that!”
“–Because I clean my room so it will be good for guests.” She sighed deeply.
“But there’s another kind,” continued Jonathan, bringing the conversation to happier subjects. “Other kinds of good things, they’re fun and they’re good for something else. Aristotle said that’s the best kind of thing — like running around.”
“Yeah!” said Meg. “I like running, and I run so I can be faster than Rainbow Dash, and when I beat her in a race she rewards me! Sometimes she gives me gold coins. Sometimes she gives me gold that I can melt into gold coins. Sometimes she gives me chocolate coins so I can…have chocolate coins!”
The adults in the room blinked. I had not been aware that she was smelting pony gold in the craft room.
On a different Bedtime Story with Aristotle, they talked about how people are different than books, because people can learn things. Jonathan explained, demonstrating, “Aristotle looked at his students, and he picked up a book and dropped it. It fell down.” Jonathan’s book plopped down too.
“‘If we drop it again, can we teach it to go up?’ he asked. ‘No,’ chorused all his students.”
“No,” agreed Meg.
“‘If I drop it a hundred times, can we get the book to fly up?’ Aristotle asked. ‘No! No matter how many times we drop it, that book will never learn to go up. But people, people can practice doing things and get better at them! If you practice doing what’s good, you can actually get better at it and do it more and more and eventually do it in your sleep. Or if you practice doing what’s bad, you’ll get better at that and you’ll do what’s bad.’”
Meg has been internalizing these stories. At one point she said vegetables are something you eat so you get something. “On dessert nights, I eat the veggies and other foods so I can get the dessert.”
Then, as a sop to my maternal feelings, she added, “A lot of them taste good too.”
Well, that’s something.
Bedtime stories with Aristotle help Meg see the “why” behind our training. It’s not immediately obvious, perhaps, if you’re six, why you have to be kind to your sister again and why you should wash your hands every time, so I appreciate any help I can get! He was a classical pagan, and he deals with such human things from a side we can all identify with.
Bedtime stories with Aristotle help us practice orderly thinking. You can categorize dinosaurs, flowers, books, people, and actions. Naming and classifying – that’s the foundation for all science. Yay science!
Bedtime stories with Aristotle are also pretty entertaining for the mama. You just never know what you’re going to get at our house. You might even get Rainbow Dash bringing chocolate coins.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Carolyn Bales.