My kids are at the inquisitive stage when they want to know absolutely everything. This is a problem for me because I know almost nothing. If you have a question about ‘80s sitcoms about kooky butlers, I’m your guy. Want to talk about the mid-90s Atlanta Braves team that climbed from worst to first, I can go on and on. You got a question about nature, birds, cars, trees, electronics, prosthetic legs, tax codes, the sleeping habits of monkeys, or anything else my kids seem to give a shit about, and I’m stumped.
For whatever reason, it’s been an inquisitive week. I guess it’s an encouraging sign of development, but let’s be honest–it just makes my life more difficult. Because do my kids care about Mr. Belvedere or Otis Nixon? No. They don’t. They seem hell bent on only asking me questions that I don’t have an answer to, which only underscores my suspicions that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing as a parent.
So here are the top three questions that stumped me this week.
1) “What’s dirt made out of?”
“Umm…smaller pieces of dirt?”
I don’t fucking know. I don’t have a phd in, um, dirt. Are dad’s really supposed to know everything? Everything!
2) “Daddy, what’s a girlfriend?”
This one I just ignored. The key to avoiding awkward conversations with a four-year-old is shock and awe. They’re persistent little bastards, so you can’t just change the subject. They’ll keep pestering you with the same question over and over unless you present them with something so fantastic, it gives them short-term amnesia. I recommend setting something on fire, or showing them a nice piece of road kill. Be careful though. Using road kill as a distraction to avoid a talk about sexual relations could lead to the following question:
3) “Daddy, what happens when you die?”
Yeah. This one came out of nowhere while I was running. The kids were in the jogging stroller, talking, getting all existential apparently, and my son lobs that grenade at me.
“What do you mean, buddy?” I ask.
“Like, if you get eaten by a giant snake. And die. What happens?”
“Well, uh, your body gets buried into the ground.”
Simple, to the point. Case closed, right? Wrong.
“And then what?” the persistent little bastard asks.
“Then your soul goes to heaven.”
“What’s a soul?” This is my daughter now. Because the conversation isn’t deep enough as it is.
I’m not sure exactly how I explained it. I was running, and tired, and scared I was going to completely fuck up my kids’ perspective on life and death. You get one shot as a parent to have the first life/death discussion. I expected more time to prepare. I expected to have notes. Maybe some scientific or religious tomes to reference. Actually, I expected my wife to handle it. Alas, my wife doesn’t run. So I’m there alone.
Here’s what I did. I made up an analogy on the fly that equated the soul to the Apple TV box and the body to the TV. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m not proud of using television to explain the great mystery of the soul, but you gotta work with what you have. I stand by my decision.
Then they wanted to know more about what happens to the body. Specifically, “Why do we bury dead bodies?” I went into some deep Lion King circle of life shit that I think kind of made sense to my kids. They definitely sunk their teeth into the notion that burying a dead body feeds the earth and makes flowers grow. For the remainder of the run, my daughter kept pointing to flowers and saying, “look daddy, there’s a dead body.”
Someone out there help me out. Tell me I’m not the only one that’s botched the big death question. Better yet, tell me about the questions your kids stumped you with.