Friday, January 19, 2007

The questions kids ask

As you may know, I have four kids, ages 9, 6, 4 and 4.

One of the things that I didn't really understand about kids before I became a parent is that kids ask a shocking number of questions everyday. Another thing that I didn't really understand is the fact that one of your most important jobs as a parent is taking the time to answer these questions. Because the answers you give are often helping to form your kids' view of the world. It's kind of amazing when you think about it.

Some days, however, you really have to scratch your head. Yesterday I got these three questions on the same day:
  1. What is a troop? I had David and Irena in the car. We stopped at a traffic light. In front of us is a car with one of those magnetic yellow ribbon stickers and it says, "Support our troops". Obviously, if you are 6, and you are getting good at reading and you want to practice, you will read sticker and ask about troops. "What is a troop?"

    So, as the parent, you explain that a troop is a soldier. "What is a soldier?" Not a simple question when talking to a 6-year-old. "Well… a soldier is a person who works in the army." Leading to the obvious "What is the Army?" If you have kids you know that these questions can be endless, so as I dig deeper and deeper into this hole I end up talking about governments, nations, human anger, war, guns, bombs, death, etc. Ten minutes later we arrive at a question like, "But why would a soldier want to die?" Excellent question... It leads you to think about nationalism, pride, duty, freedom, employment, justice, genocide, testosterone, etc. "Why do we have to support our troops?" That leads to thoughts about politics, national interests, debates, terrorism, WMDs, intelligence... and that leads to questions about.... You can see that, honestly, you could spend months talking about all of the side branches to the question "What is a troop?" And the day is just getting started! Fortunately, in most situations like this, you eventually arrive at a destination and the subject changes.

  2. What is an ABC store? We are running some errands, and along the way we pass an ABC store. For those who do not live in North Carolina, an ABC store is the state-run liquor store. It is the only place to buy "hard" liquor in NC, I believe. I'm not entirely sure about that because I don't drink, and therefore I have had no occasion to purchase alcohol in an ABC store, or anywhere else. Which points out another thing -- as a parent, you often realize how much you don't know.

    So I try to answer the question simply. "That's a store where people buy alcoholic beverages." Obviously, "What is alcohol?" is the next question. "Well.." and I answer that question. Eventually my child asks, "Do you drink alcohol?" So I answer honestly, "No, I don't". "Why not?" So I explain that as best I can. My father had a terrible time with alcohol, and I learned all I needed to know about alcohol vicariously. But how do I say that about the kids' grandfather? And the kids have never met my father, because he is dead, because of alcohol. So you work through that whole nest of emotions.

    Eventually the child arrives at the obvious question, "Why does anyone drink alcohol?" Think how complex that is. There are psychological reasons, social reasons, peer reasons, relaxation reasons, self-medication reasons, stupid reasons… "Can I try some alcohol?" Hmmm. "Why do they have to sell alcohol in a special store?" Hmmm. "What does 'drunk' mean?" Hmmm.

    You can see that there are a huge number of decisions that you are going to make as you answer a string of questions like this, and you are going to end up flavoring your answers with your world view and experiences to some degree, and your kids are going to pick up what you say and use that information in forming their own world view, to some degree. Either accepting it as truth (the predominant mode of young children) or completely rejecting it (a frequent mode of teens).

    Thankfully you arrive at your destination eventually...

  3. So we are in bed, and I am reading the kids a book. It is a nice, quiet, safe time. We are reading the book, "The Black Stallion", which is a cool story that the kids have never heard before and they are really enjoying it. And we come upon the description of the Black Stallion's new friend, who, the book is so kind to mention, is a gelding.

"Yes my little girl."

"What is a gelding?"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You know it is going to be a good day when... wake up, check your email, and you get a nice note like this:
It is nice getting letters like this, because they are a great way to start the day. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to write.

Looking for something inspirational to read today? Try this: How to make a million dollars.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Want to buy a mountain?

Came upon this while researching a newspaper article:

Vermont ski area for sale

Thursday, January 04, 2007

It is amazing what humans can accomplish...

...when they put their minds to it:

Whooping cranes finally whoop it up

From the article:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It is amazing what humans can accomplish...

...when they work together.

Think about everything that was necessary to pull this off....

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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