Explaining stuff to Boo — ATM cards, the Minnesota State Fair’s stick-food fetish, careers in HVAC — in terms she can understand is immensely satisfying. Teaching, after all, isn’t just saying what you know, it’s saying what you know in a way that your audience will “get.”
On the other hand, sometimes it’s just more fun to lie.
* * *
“Daddy, why is that man talking to himself?” (Real answer: Bluetooth headset.)
“Well, honey, he’s talking to the astronaut that’s sitting on his shoulder. He got shrunk really, really small — he’s about the size of a peanut. Can you see him?”
“Oooooh…. yeah! Hi, astronaut!” She’s now waving and shouting at Mr. Bluetooth, who’s looking nervous. “Do I have an invisible peanut man, daddy?”
See, lying can be fun.
* * *
On the other hand, sometimes there is no lie, there is no truth, that answers the question: Boo has been talking a lot about death lately.
This morning, Boo was playing with a beanie dog named “Dog,” serving it cereal and water in little bowls on the kitchen floor. Out of the blue, she said, “I got Dog because my old dog died.”
“Oh, really?” I responded. I was pre-coffee — jittery and nervous. But I soldiered on. “Did that make you sad, when your dog died?”
“No, I wasn’t sad. I got a new dog!”
Holy crap. I don’t look at developmental charts, but my gut tells me that concepts of death and dying aren’t supposed to crop up for a couple of years yet. At this rate, my wife should be expecting to deliver the sex talk before Boo’s six.
Sure enough: “Daddy, why did my old dog die?”
Cursing myself for not having made set up the coffee the night before, I started a long-winded answer about how death is part of life, how we remember our loved ones and keep them within us… you know, the usual. I was in the middle of describing the five stages of grief when I noticed that Boo had left the room, taking Dog with her.
I stopped talking. I relaxed. I made coffee.
* * *
So I can handle everyday truths and silly lies. But the profound pillars of our lives as humans — like death — I don’t seem to be able to scratch those, not with words, anyway.