Kids ask questions.
Hell, that’s the basis of Go Ask Daddy on Fridays. They don’t stop asking, even after 357 questions. Who are the people made of clay? Why is TV on a delay for NFL games? Are you going to sit in a racecar for your haircut, daddy?
(Very funny, kid.)
The answers and discussions flow painlessly. (Greek and Sumerian mythology refers to clay people. Islam mentions them, too. A 7-second delay keeps F-bombs off NFL broadcasts. And no, I didn’t sit in a racecar. I didn’t need a booster seat, either.)
A kid will drop an Atomic Meltdown firework on you, too. “Would you die for me, daddy?” That’s one.
With kids, as with a rearview mirror, objects are often closer than they appear. If their inquisitive nature is a southbound train, it passes through Columbia, S.C., 17 hours ahead of schedule.
They’ll ask and wonder on subjects they don’t have the capacity to understand. It’s up to dad to figure it out. Even when they don’t ask until after the fact.
The Holocaust, explained to a middle school girl
Dad missed a preemptive strike on this one with his oldest girl.
Now a high school junior, Elise texts me from school for pointers on assignments. “How long was Barry Bonds suspended after steroids?” We review opposites for Spanish class or the role of Congress on the drive to school. She carried a paperback on the holocaust in her backpack in eighth grade. I had no idea.
She lay facing the wall in bed, wide-eyed. She clutched her blanket when I came in to kiss her goodnight.
She’d just finished the book. Horror strikes the core when it’s real. Star Wars has suspense, and Indiana Jones adventure and danger. Historic horror holds a place beyond imagination, doesn’t it? When the syllabus comes out – that’s when it’s best to talk.
After the fact is fine, too.
Florida vs. West Virginia (not in the Gator Bowl)
I took an elementary-school Marie to an all-sports camp. Against.her.will. Little Marie wasn’t the adventurous warrior bigger Marie turned out to be. I sat in the stands to watch her play. She shot me a death scowl between each session. The sweet kid must’ve missed her daddy.
Last summer, a friend invited her for a weeklong trip to Florida. Just three kids, a dad, and a motorhome. Marie, 13 at the time, wanted to hit the road.
A winter later, another friend dropped an eleventh-hour getaway invite. A church group headed to West Virginia for two days of tubing, snowboarding and skiing. Bolting down a mountain on slick ski gear? That beats the Florida sun on the danger scale by at least 17 points.
Guess which trip Marie took?
It amazes me she’s never asked, why kibosh the Florida trip, and green-light West Virginia? Age? Company? Gut feeling? Yes. If she asks someday, I’ll tell her just what I thought of both trips. Not that it will make much sense to her.
Until she’s a parent herself.
The baby: A question machine
She asks the burning questions.
Why aren’t numbers cursive?
How do they coach kids for a spelling bee?
Is the green stuff on strawberries good for you?
I’m proud of that inquisitive nature. Her sisters have it, too. That she asks me shows she trusts me. What if the questions feel too heavy, though?
What if the answers feel too light?
Why do you have to die before people will listen?
Have you ever stolen anything?
Why do you take all those pills?
A parent’s the only one who gets it. We listen, we react. I’ve had conversations with my youngest lately I didn’t expect yet. But she put her trust in me.
Kids aren’t too young (or, I hope, too old) for that kind of discussion.