Like many small children, I think, Owl is a little scientist, and I’m not handling it very well.
I’ve always looked forward to explaining things to my children. When I was just a teenager I made sure to know why the sky was blue and why water boiled, so that some day I could explain it to my kids.
But I always imagined my kids understanding the answer.
For years, Owl and I have experienced mutual frustration with my inability to deliver answers that he can understand. On the bright side, his questions these days are actually coherent most of the time. He no longer asks me what a tree is doing or why I am driving him to school.
Now his questions are actually VALID, but he still can’t understand THE GOD DAMN ANSWER.
That’s not his fault. He’s FOUR. He’s a bright kid. Some day he’ll probably be winning science awards. I’m sure that no one finds it more frustrating than he does. But it still doesn’t make it easy when I’m constantly being badgered for questions that I can’t answer.
He doesn’t just want to know IF he can have a sandwich. He wants to know WHY he can have a sandwich. He wants to understand the PSYCHOLOGY behind my willingness to acquiesce to his request. He doesn’t think that “because you said you were hungry and you asked for a sandwich and it’s lunch time and we have the ingredients to make sandwiches so I considered your request and decided it was reasonable” is sufficient FOR SOME REASON.
He doesn’t just want to know how to make his little McDonald’s toy car go. He wants to know WHY pressing the lever makes it go, and any attempt at explaining physics to him will simply result in a more pressing “WHY?”
Even if he could understand Newtonian physics, asking WHY physics works that way enters a realm of science that Nobel Prize winners have not been able to answer.
This morning, he asked a series of increasingly in-depth questions which basically led to him questioning the entire fabric existence of the world as we know it, and there was no answer I could give him that didn’t involve trying to explain quantum mechanics. A lot of the time I have to settle for “because that’s how things are.”
I’m beginning to wonder if things like religion and superstition weren’t invented by harried moms just trying to shut their kids up. It’s EXHAUSTING, especially when you get to the end of a very long discussion only to feel like it was entirely useless.
Here is a sample transcript from our drive home from daycare this evening:
Owl: Mom… why do my boots fall off when I put my feet down?
Me: Because they’re loose.
Owl: But why do they fall?
Me: Why do things fall, Owl?
Owl: Because of gravity?
Owl: Why does gravity pull things down?
Me: Because that’s how gravity works.
Owl: But how does it work?
Me: I… you’ll understand more when you’re older. Very big things have gravity and pull things towards them.
Owl: Yeah. And the Earth is big so it has gravity!
Owl: Why doesn’t SPACE have gravity? It’s big.
Me: I… because space isn’t a THING, honey, it’s empty, it’s the place that holds everything else. Things that are IN space have gravity, like planets and the moon.
Owl: And us.
Me: We’re too small to have gravity. Only very big things like planets have gravity.
Owl: Or like those streetlights.
Me: … No… the streetlights don’t have gravity. They’re small.
Owl: They’re bigger than US.
Me: Not big like the EARTH, Owl. Only VERY BIG THINGS have gravity.
Owl: And everything on the Earth is small?
Owl: Why everything on the Earth is small?
Me: Everything on the Earth is SMALLER THAN THE EARTH, because otherwise it wouldn’t fit on the Earth. Size is relative, right? An elephant is big compared to us, but small compared to the Earth. We are big compared to an ant, but small compared to an elephant. That TREE is big compared to us but small compared to a skyscraper. Right?
Owl: Right. And the Earth is big compared to everything.
Me: No… The sun is bigger than the Earth, right?
Me: So the Earth is big compared to you and me, but small compared to the sun. The sun is small compared to a bigger star. Stars are small compared to a galaxy. Galaxies are small compared to the whole universe. RIGHT?
Owl: Right. Because space is big.
Owl: Even a whole CAR could fit in space.
Owl: A car. I said A CAR. A CAR could even fit in SPACE!
Me: A car?? Of COURSE a car could fit in space, EVERYTHING is… OH LOOK WE’RE HOME NOW.
And so I am exhausted and frustrated after a mere 5 minutes with my child. And the worst part is knowing that these are the conversations I always thought I would enjoy. I worry a lot, too, that my frequent simmering impatience is going to have a negative effect on his curiosity and self esteem.
I’m hoping that I will enjoy this more, when he actually understands that street lights and cars are smaller than the entire universe. I’m sure he will.
In the mean time, at least PH doesn’t mind this sort of thing. If he were well I think I would hand all child care responsibility to him until Owl developed the ability to understand basic science. As it is, I’m just going to have to find some way to fight my constant frustration.
Maybe I should just introduce him to God.
But then he’d probably want to know why God exists and how God was made and why God happened to make green that particular wavelength and…