It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another Good Question (And Another)

Is it just us, or do other people's kids also save their million-dollar questions specifically for evening car rides, when we're already channeling whatever meager energy remains in our dragging systems toward focusing on the road?

This evening's car conversation, as follows:

Daughter (age 9):  Mommy, what happens when the world ends?

Me:   (to self)  Huh?!?   (out loud)  Can you explain what you mean by that?

Daughter:  Well, we live, and then life comes to an end, so I figured that the world is alive now, and then it will also come to an end.  But not right away -- only in a long time.

Me:  Actually, that's pretty much what's going to happen.  The sun will eventually get too hot for life in our world to survive, only it'll take thousands of years.  But how did you know that?  Did you hear it from someone?

Daughter:  I just thought about it.

* * * *

Maybe the philosophers are right;  if we just follow our thoughts through to their logical conclusions, everything will fall into place.  On the other hand, maybe I should be more careful talking about work stuff and mortality issues when my kids are within hearing range.

The conversation continued with my brief explanation of global warming, which encouraged my daughter to give me a complete run-down of what she'd learned in science class regarding the relationship between driving cars, cutting down trees, CO2 build-up, the diminishing ozone layer, ultraviolet light infiltration, and skin damage.  

I'm not sure how much of what she said was by rote, and how much she really understood, but I felt a bit under-equipped for lengthy technical explanations.  It was getting late and The Fear of Limited Energy had long since fulfilled its own prophecy.  I did try to help her understand that the issue is complicated, and the answers are not always obvious or clear-cut.  (Take the case of artificial turf -- who woulda thunk it?)  For example, I told her, the recycling of all paper products is not necessarily a perfect solution to the deforestation problem, if you take into account water usage and bleach runoff.  She didn't quite buy that, but I'm assuming we have some time until the abstract thinking finally kicks in, hopefully within the next decade or two.

Then there's always the danger of answering your children's questions before taking the time to fully understand what they're really asking.  This gem of a conversation took place a few months ago:

Daughter (age 6):  Mommy, is it that girls aren't allowed to marry other girls, or do they just not want to?

Me (to self):  Well, that depends on which state you're in... in California everyone's pretty much used to it.   No, WAIT.   What's she really asking?

Me (out loud):  Why are you asking, sweetie?

Daughter:  Because I really want to get married to A.  Are we allowed?

(Note to the reader:  A, of course, is her best friend, also age 6, who lives across the street and, to my tempered chagrin, just taught her how to climb a doorframe).

Me:   Well I don't think you and A. really need to get married, since you practically live at one another's houses as it is.  Anyway, you're already living with us, for free.  If you marry A., you'll have to pay rent on an apartment or something.

Daughter:  But I really love her...

* * * *

I guess the two of them could always move to California.

Keep the balance,



ProfK said...

Different generations and societal input, different thoughts that grab the kids. My daughter didn't want to marry her best friend when she was little, but she was very insistent that we adopt her instead. Explaining that she already had a mother and father didn't help. Our daughter looked at me and said "Are you the best mother in the whole wide world?" I hemmed and hawed and finally asked her how she felt. She said "You're the best mom in the world and so my best friend deserves the best mother." I copped out and told her that her father would be able to explain things to her perfectly. As I remember it his explanation got mighty technical and included multiple references to chazal and numerous gemorahs, including one Baba Meisohs She lost interest long before he lost steam.

And yes, you are so right--all these conversations usually happened in the car during rush hour.

therapydoc said...

Brilliant. Kids also talk to you when you're playing barber.

A Living Nadneyda said...

"You're the best mom in the world and so my best friend deserves the best mother."

ProfK - I like your daughter's logical thinking.

TD - Funny you should mention... this afternoon my youngest (age 3) finally agreed to let me trim the curls off his golden fleece. I sat him down on a kitchen stool in front of the laptop showing trailers from Wall-E. I figured that would translate into less movement and a better haircut (not to mention a lower likelihood of me doing a Van Gogh-by-proxy). The other kids gathered around and we had a great time laughing at Wall-E's antics together. That was an unexpected bonus.

(The haircut didn't turn out too bad either. Later this evening I crocheted him a new kippah to go with it. Or should I say, beanie).