Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Eli's Interrogation

At 4 years old, Eli is at that wonderful age of curiosity. He has questions about absolutely everything, whether it’s about TV (Why does Dora’s backpack talk and mine doesn’t?), the human body (Why is daddy’s penis bigger than mine?) or religion (Where does Baby Jesus live?), he really keeps my brain cells working.

My friend Andrea, who has a 5-year-old, has told me the questioning gets more intense, so apparently we are just gearing up. The hard part is that I try desperately to avoid saying “I don’t know.” Andrea has done that a few times, and she now hears the refrain, “Mommies don’t know anything. Daddies know everything.” Her response to me was, “Yeah, that’s just because he makes sh*t up!”

So, I have been trying my hardest to come up with plausible answers to whatever the question may be, and they really range the gamut. I told Andrea she should be lucky she has two boys because when Eli’s baby sister arrived last year, she provided him with nothing but endless questions when I changed her diaper. “Why is her butt in front?” I told him that wasn’t her butt, that was her vagina. Blink. Blink. “Where’s her penis?” Little girls don’t have penises. They have vaginas. This is followed by the popular retort to any answer I give. “Why?” Luckily, I have a fallback answer to this question, too. Because God made them that way.

For some reason, the body questions I can handle. “Are my boobs gonna get big like yours someday?” or “Why does my penis get hard when I play with it?” but I stumble more on religion. I’m not sure why that is. Eli did want to know where Baby Jesus lives. I said he lives in Heaven. “Where’s Heaven?” “Um . . . Hmmm . . . That’s a good question.” He will not be deterred. “Yes, it is. Where’s Heaven?” Well, it’s very far away. “Can we go there?” We can someday. “But I want to go now. I want to visit Baby Jesus.” Well, honey. Heaven’s not open for visits. “Why?” Because God and Jesus are very busy, so we can’t go visit them. “Why not?” When all else fails, I ask, “Who wants ice cream?!”

Luckily, I have answers for most of the questions, many of which usually take place in the car. “What’s that big crane doing?” “Why are they changing all the stores into Macy’s?” “Why is there a round-about here instead of a red light?” “Who’s working today at Scooter’s?” “What is that car doing?” “Why do they have orange pine cones set up?” “Is gas cheaper today?” (Yes, he really asks that one.)

And I can usually answer the philosophical, “Why does a square have four sides?” “Why do people sit in chairs?” “Why are fire hydrants red?” “Where does rain come from?”

I’m getting good with questions about TV, “Why do the elephants on Sesame Street talk but the ones at the zoo don’t?” “Where can we rescue animals like Diego?” “Can I get a thinking chair like Blue?”

It’s when I watch TV that there’s more of a problem, and I don’t even watch that much TV. I finally had to stop watching Lost in front of him because it scared him and because I couldn’t hear the show through all the questions. “Why are they in a jungle?” Because their plane crashed there. “Where’s the plane?” On the beach. “Where’s the beach?” Next to the jungle. “Does that guy have a gun?” Yes. “Is he going to shoot it?” I don’t know. “Are there snakes there?” Probably. “Do we get to see any snakes?” That’s about the time I start shouting for Eric to come and get his son.

I recently discovered a whole new realm of questions that I’m not quite sure how to answer to the satisfaction of a 4-year-old. Since it’s the fifth anniversary of 9/11, there are an increasing number of TV specials about it. How do you answer questions about that? How do you explain to your innocent baby that there are such evil people in the world. After questions like, “Wow, what happened to that building?” The collapse. “How are they going to clean up that mess?” The rubble. “Why are those people so dirty?” “Why are those firemen crying?” I just turned off the TV. I know he will need to know about it someday. I know I will need to answer those questions as much as I answer questions about Dora the Explorer.

But not yet. Let me keep my baby innocent for just a little bit longer.

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