Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Way Things Work

This evening after dinner, Isaac started begging me to go outside.

"It's almost dark outside already," I told him, showing him through the window. "We'll have to play outside tomorrow when it's daytime."

He sighed in resignation and hung his head. Suddenly, he perked up, and asked, "Mommy, where does the sun go?"

My first inclination, honestly, was just to tell him the sun was going to bed. As he would be shortly.

I mean, how do you explain the reason for sunsets to someone with minimal language skills and only the most basic, mostly subconscious understanding of things like spatial relationships and geometry? Who doesn't have the foggiest idea he lives on a giant (how big is giant?) spherical (what's a sphere?) object called a planet (what's that mean?) that spins around as it hurtles through outer space (where's outer space?) around a much, much more giant flaming (huh? why? what lit it?) ball of nuclear (what?) fusion?

So, yeah, I was on the point of making up a clever one-sentence fairy tale (or, okay, let's face it, stealing one made up by some mother of antiquity whose precocious two-year-old decided to ask her the same flabbergasting question), when I thought about a conversation I had earlier today with Andrea about how amazed I've been at the volume of convenient fabrications that have come out of my mouth since I became a parent

("If you don't eat that turkey right now, I'm going to eat it all myself!" Says the vegetarian mother.

"Thomas and Percy are too sleepy to play. They want to go night-night in their cozy plastic box now."

"Mommy can't stay next to your bed reading to you for another hour and a half because she has to go potty right now. Right now! I can't wait! Sorry! See ya later! Good night!"

"Turkey? Oh, no. That's not turkey. It's white ham!"),

and then Andrea asked if I'd read any of the discussion quasi-recently over at The Mom Trap about whether deceiving children for convenience's sake undermines a parent's credibility, and I replied that that when it comes to getting my child to eat I am willing to say just about ANYTHING

("Thomas and Percy LOVE to eat turkey. Didn't they tell you?")

but that I had in fact read that discussion, and the whole "never lie" idea was an interesting theory, really.

So, when Isaac asked me where the sun goes, in a moment of guilt over my no-good dirty lying parenting ways, I grabbed a big blue exercise ball and an enormous flashlight and attempted to demonstrate the basics of planetary motion for a pre-schooler.

I don't think he understood a word of it.

But afterward, he kept pointing the flashlight at the ceiling and saying ecstatically, "Look Mommy! I made the sun!"

Which really cheered him up after the whole not going outside deal.


angelfeet said...

I think we often say things out of desperation, especially when we are trying to get through one meal without developing indigestion or emitting steam from our ears. It's quite a challenge to our communication skills to try and explain the world around us to those whose world, as you said, exists only as far as what he has directly experienced. I remember when my elder daughter was about 5 and she asked how we breathed - I launched into an explanation about the diaphragm moving up and down and the air being drawn in through the nose etc. My daughter looked at me with a strange smile on her face, as if I was telling a joke, and I'm fairly sure she was thinking that I had made up a story just to get her to go to sleep. I try to be as honest/straight forward as possible with my girls, because I know at some point it will come round and bite me on the butt if I don't!

Girlplustwo said...

nice. i stand convicted. i actually told M this AM that the moon went to bed. mother of god, i need new material.

Anonymous said...

I don't really know if that business about white lies ruining our parenting credibility is hooey or not, but I love those moments when kids get so excited over something like that. I like Isaac's version. This may end up being part of his first memories repertoire. Sounds like fun to me.

Blog Antagonist said...

LOL! You seriously made me laugh out loud. I kind of did the same thing with my oldest son's sex talk. I had diagrams and everything. Luckily, he let me know he had enough information for the time being.

Rebecca said...

It is amazing how long a flashlight can entertain a kid.

My son had a camping themed slumber party and I gave flashlights as the party favors. The kids loved it. They ran around in the dark for hours.

Lisa said...

I have lied to my child countless times. It sort of just flies out of one's mouth, I think...

Rose said...

What a great idea. I'll have to keep this in mind when my daughter gets to the question stage. She's currently 17 months old, so I've still got some time to prepare.

the mad momma said...

I don't believe you had the patience to do that with such a young child. I must look out for an award. this makes up for all that art you destroyed!
and you know what.. i am inspired... i am going to make more of an effort in future to EXPLAIN instead of sweeping it all under the carpet.
I can imagine his joy over the flashlight.. its funny how such little things get you all gooey and mushy.

Anonymous said...

Heck, I'm not even a mom and I've told those lies to kids. I watch a family of boys a couple days a week and I am constantly finding myself stretching the truth. I think there are times to go into the full-blown explanation...and then there are times to hand 'em the flashlight and fib a bit.

And again, I'm not even a mother yet. My poor children are going to grow up thinking lollypops grow on trees or something. I might need to work that out before I conceive ;-)

Her Bad Mother said...

Once WonderBaby develops language skills, the tall tales will be a-spinnin'. If I could help her eating and sleeping with a story right now, I would so do it. No hesitation.

But you've got me thinking on this one - I know exactly how I would defend this practice. I think that you've just inspired a post...