THINGS I DON’T KNOW
As anyone who has raised children can tell you, it’s a humbling experience. Without kids you can easily travel through your polite adult life feeling competent and capable.
It’s a sham.
We arrange our environments carefully to delude ourselves into thinking we know a lot. We choose friends with similar interests who will only talk to us about things we know about. We get jobs that match our backgrounds so we can talk the talk that makes us look smart. And we can skillfully surf the web all the livelong day without the slightest fear that someone we meet there will ask us how something one types on a computer in Sheboygan can simultaneously appear in Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, and Katmandu.
Children, however, do not hesitate to point out just how little we know. At least mine don’t.
My four-year-old is especially good at this. The answer she gets from me most often: “That’s just the way it IS.” To make matters worse, Little Bit tends to be cranky and demanding in her childish, center-of-the-universe way, and therefore believes that not only should I be able to explain the mysteries and inconveniences of the world, I should fix them too.
“Mommy,” she complained recently, “the sun is shining in my eyes!”
“Put your sunglasses on, sweetie.”
“I don’t like wearing my sunglasses! Why does the sun always shine in people’s eyes when they don’t like that?”
Tigger, who is hovering on the brink of eight, asks more sophisticated but similarly unanswerable questions. Today she perused the cover of Newsweek, which features a crucified Jesus.
“Mommy,” she wondered, “what does Jesus have to do with Christ? Isn’t Jesus a Jewish thing?”
“Ummm, he started out that way…”
It got worse. I swear this is an exact quote.
“Mommy, I would give anything to know this: why, by what logic, do people believe that Jesus was the son of god? He was just some guy. Where’s the logic?”
When we drive someplace in the minivan, Tigger sits in the way back and reads. Occasionally she glances up and shouts questions to me in the chauffeur’s seat.
Yesterday’s book: The Princess Diaries
Yesterday’s question: “Mommy, what does it mean to be ‘felt up?’”
At least I knew the answer.