I hate to say it, but I've been feeling a little inferior lately. To my husband, I mean. He's just a lot better than I am at answering Rollie's questions. I guess his Chemical Engineering degree is finally paying off.
But instead of wallowing in a pool of English degree self-pity, I'm trying to embrace Rollie's latest phase. I'm trying to field the bombardment of 'why's' with enthusiasm and understanding. I'm trying my best to answer his questions correctly, using words and phrases he should understand, and incorporating visual aides and demonstrations when possible. And it's not going so well.
This morning I called him to the back door so he could see the sunrise. The clouds were like county-fair cotton candy, steam rose from the lake where wading birds stood silent and still. Everything was wet with dew. Even our moldy porch furniture was beautiful in the muted morning light.
He stopped harrassing Elsa long enough to trot over to me and gaze out the backdoor at the splendorous dawn.
Me: See how pretty the clouds look, Rol?
Rollie: Where's the sun, Momma?
Me: The sun's still sleeping.
Rollie: Why is the sun sleeping?
Me: Well, he's not really sleeping. He's just sort of...hiding.
Rollie: Why is he hiding?
Me: It's just not time for him to be up yet.
Rollie: Where is he, Momma?
Me: Behind those trees.
Rollie: Why is he behind those trees?
Me (studying the treeline and realizing the sun is still well below the horizon: Well, he's not actually behind the trees. He's kind of...below them.
Rollie: Why is he kind of below them?
Me: Well, because the earth is round and spinning, and it hasn't really turned enough for us to face the sun yet. (Nice answer, Copernicus)
And then I had a bolt of inspiration. My mind flashed to my brief stint as a tutor, and the phrase Teachable Moment illuminated in my brain in big, neon letters.
Me: Come on, Rollie. I want to show you something.
I bring him into his bedroom and select a soccer ball from his overflowing basket of balls of every size, shape and sport.
Me (holding the ball up for him to see): Now, let's pretend that this is earth. Earth is where we live. See how it's round?
Rollie: Why is it round?
Me: We'll get to that. Now, (I grab a Lego chicken from Rollie's play table) let's pretend this is you. (I hold the chicken on the ball). See? You're standing on Earth.
Rollie (scratching his head): Why am I a chicken?
Me: I think you're missing the point, but that's okay.
Rollie: Why am I missing the point?
Me (determined to soldier on): Now, let's pretend your Lightning McQueen flashlight is the sun. (I flip on the switch and aim the beam at the soccer ball). See how the light is only on one side the ball? That's like daytime. And see how the chicken isn't in the light? That's because it's nighttime. For the chicken. I mean, for you.
Rollie: Why is it...why is it nighttime for the chicken?
Me: Ah-ha, because the earth hasn't turned enough to get the chicken into the light. But watch this. (I turn the ball so that the chicken is basking in the heat of the Lightning McQueen flashlight), now the chicken is in the sun. See? It's morning! The ball...I mean...Earth has turned far enough so that the light is on the chicken. See? Like the sun coming up in the morning. Get it?
Rollie: ....Can we do something else, Momma?
I sit there on the floor with the Lightning McQueen flashlight clutched in one hand, the soccer ball in the other and a Lego chicken between my fingers, and I instantly feel like a mad scientist or a crazy math teacher. What the hell am I doing? Why am I making it so f-ing complicated? Now I get why the phrase, Because I said so, is truly the best tool a parent can use. Right up there with coffee.
I think from now on I will stick to my comfort zone of answers:
a.) Ask Dad
b.) Because I said so
c.) Because God made it that way
d.) I don't know
And my new favorite, what-the-hell-did-our-parents-do-before-the-internet answer:
e.) Let's look it up on Wikipedia