As most parents will tell you , there are moments in life that are somewhat disturbing when you have kids. These are not exactly frightening moments, and yet they are times when the heart skips half a beat, when you slowly close your eyes and very carefully ask for clarification. Sort of like when my ninth grade English teacher used to grasp the edges of her podium so tightly her knuckles would crack and ask me, “Jeremy, does your mother love you?”
For me, I think these moments sometimes center on the questions our children ask. We don’t always know why they ask us these things or where they are going with their line of inquiry, but we are just slightly disturbed by the implications our adult minds reach.
Zachary, age 3: “Daddy, how sharp is this pocket knife?”
Sometimes, we think we understand where the kids are going. Being good and essentially decent parents, that incident with that shovel not withstanding, we offer up our best explanations. Too often, though, we reach the wrong conclusion.
Preston, age 6: “Where did that baby come from?” (After the best explanation I could give without slideshows and diagrams, he added, “No, I mean it wasn’t here when I came in.”)
At other times, we aren’t disturbed but we cannot envision any possible good reason for such a question. As someone said, we place our insecurities in the empty spaces created by silence and confusion.
Preston , age 7: “Dad, do we have like, lots of tape? I mean, lots and lots?”
We occasionally are correct in our fears, justified when the bells in our heads go off.
Preston, age 10: “Remember that electric fence between our house and the neighbor’s?”
And then there are those moments when we place our heads on the desk and swear we just don’t want to know.
Zachary, age 5: ”Why is the kitchen sticky?”
Sometimes, the kids don’t even have to be talking to us. They can chat with one another on the edge of our attention span. Talking and visiting innocently, they don’t realize what it sounds like when Daddy suddenly decides to pay attention (or turn on his hearing aid).
Emily, age 4: “Will it bounce?”
And then there are those moments of clarity, those times when we know the answer without having to know the details behind the question.
Emily, age 5: “Daddy, can I climb up on the roof with Preston? Zach’s already up there.”