Aren't they great? Inquisitive little boogers - always wondering, always seeking answers to questions that would stump Stephen Frickin' Hawking (as he is known to his close friends).
The science questions are bad enough - and they seem to come when you least expect them: in the grocery checkout line, through the powder room door, while gesturing at an idiotic driver as you pass him at high speeds with two wheels up on the curb.
You know - when you're occupado.
In these situations, I've found that the inquisitive youngster (and the folks waiting in line behind you while you try to find your coupons and your club card) are most appreciative of an answer that sacrifices a smidgen of accuracy for the sake of brevity.
Child: Why is the sky blue?
Parent: Because no one looks good in yellow.
Child: Then why is space black?
Parent: Because they turned off the lights to save energy. In the 70s, space was lit up like a landing strip.
Child: Where does rain come from?
Parent: The ceiling.
And so on.
Life moves forward, dinner gets made and (bonus!) somewhere out there in the future, a science teacher is hugging himself with glee at the discovery that yet another kid in class thinks the rings around Saturn were built by Nintendo as a Mario Kart practice track. (People like to feel good about their jobs, you know.)
The Bigger Questions.
Sure, these bite-sized science inquiries can be swatted away
You know, the thanks-for-the-Legos-but-can-we-get-back-to-the-matter-of-where-we-came-from-and-why-we're-here-and-where-we're-going-next-type questions. (Known collectively among educators and parenting specialists as "The Widowmaker" or "The Flaming Chimichanga.")
Many of you probably have religious or philosophical foundations that provide ready-made answers to these fundamental questions. (Lucky!) There are many folks, however (myself included) who haven't yet found that single, ideal belief system that has it all: profoundly comforting answers to life's monumental questions without the pesky purple-cape-and-hi-top-sneakers dress code.
And so, when our children come to us thirsting for knowledge about the workings of the Universe and beyond, we want to provide answers - boy, do we - but, alas, we simply don't have them. Nor does it seem appropriate to give a youngster a completely candid response along the lines of "It beats the crap out of me, kid!"
Which leaves us somewhere in the middle: we have to say something...right?
Why not say this:
Question: "Mommy, where did people come from?"
Mommy: "In the steamy dawn of the Time of Gorgon the Fluctuator, it was decreed that certain things shall be so. Then, before we knew it, Bob's your uncle and here we are. Now, then! [clap hands loudly] Who wants frozen yogurt?"
Question: "Daddy, who is God?"
Daddy: "Your mother sent you to ask that, didn't she? Listen, go tell Mommy that I said God is - are you ready? - Eric Clapton."
Question: "Hey, Mom, what happens to people after they die?"
Mom: "Hmm, well, I don't know the specifics, of course, but I'm under the impression that if you're a good person your whole life, you go somewhere that has free valet parking. On the other hand, if you're not a good person, well, two words: shuttle bus."
Question: "Dad, what's the meaning of life?"
Dad: [ahem] "Hey, sport! Did I mention we're getting a trampoline? Yeah! Let's go pick out that bad boy right now! Wooh!"*
* Unless you have a really big yard, we recommend using this answer only once.
We hope you find these responses helpful as you are called upon to field The Big Questions. In the meantime, if you happen to know the REAL answers to any of the queries above, please post them in the comment box below. Also, I would really enjoy a pony and a zillion dollars.
[Note: No deities were harmed in the writing of this post.]