This beautiful guest post and photos are by Katrijn de Ronde, a freelance journalist at Katrijn&Klaassen and the mother of little ones. Thank you so much, Katrijn! ❤️
“Mama, the gold paint looks like the small intestine.” My daughter is learning about the body at pre-school. This is a Singaporean pre-school, which means they are tiger-ish in their approach to knowledge. My three-year-old is doing hands, shoulders, knees and toes, my five-year-old is learning about the intricacies of the digestive tract and the heart-lung system.
She traced the veins on my forearm with her paint brush and pointed out the purple and the blue ones. So I explained how the heart pumps oxygenated blood out (purple) and de-oxygenated blood (blue) flows back. She shook her head: “I know that.” She put her hand on my chest to feel my heartbeat. She checked the Fitbit for my heartrate.
“Your heart beats slower than mine”, she said. I told her it was because I am bigger than she is. She said: “My heart beats faster if I like somebody.” I said my heart beats faster when I like somebody too. She said: “If somebody stops loving you, you die.”
I asked her why. She said: “Your heart breaks. If your heart is broken, it can’t pump blood. So you die.”
That was difficult. Even in Singapore, five-year-olds don’t grasp metaphors yet or how something can be truth yet factually untrue.
After a little bit of thinking, I told her we all have two hearts. We have the physical heart, the one that pumps the blood. Then we have the heart of love, the one for our feelings. They live in the same place in our chest and work together. If the physical one breaks, we need a doctor. If the heart of love breaks, we need hugs, lots of hugs.
“Is that the heart you gave to me and J. when we were born?” she asked. Yes, I said. That’s the one. She looked worried. “So what about you? Do you still have two hearts?” And I said yes. Because when I gave mine to you, you gave yours to me.
And my daughter smiled, and my son drew green and blue pictures on his naked belly and we were quiet for a moment, contemplating the paint work, and then my daughter asked: “So where do planets come from?”