The mouths of babes

ONE of the best parts of being a parent is being their sole source of all information … for a little while at least.

These little people are only just now learning all kinds of random stuff that you assume people know and I am regularly reminded that they must still learn things like: not only what an anchor is, but why a boat can’t just stop in the first place.

It’s challenging to find not only the simplest way to describe what words like “guardian” mean but to also find a frame of reference that you know they’ll respond to. And after that, you need to vet any response that an over-analytical four-year-old could begin to find concerning.

For example, the word guardian is part of a simple prayer that leaves out the suggestion that the kids could “die before they wake” and instead focuses on the presence of divine intervention.

Hence the term “guardian”. It took me about three days of Son asking what “gardenia” meant when I realised he was refering to the prayer. I tried to explain about people who look after you, and then, just as I was about to launch into a spiel of angels (which the prayer also mentions), I considered how horrifying it could be to a four-year-old that someone he couldn’t see was watching him. Particularly given the prayer is said at bedtime.

So, we left it at a simple explanation: people who watch out for other people.

Then he asked what “about” meant.

Won the battle, but obviously losing the war here.

But I love that my husband and I are posed with such questions. It is a chance to reflect on what such things mean to us and what lesson we want our children to draw from our answers.

Though sometimes it just gets too difficult. Take this one for example… Our son is aware of the fact my husband and I once went skydiving (many moons ago).

“Where was I?” He asked.

“You weren’t born yet.”

“But where was I?”

“Um, you were what’s called a soul.”

“Was I with Nanny and Pappy?”

“No… you were,” I look at husband, recalling a psychic telling us we had two souls around us. “You were with us.”

“In the plane?”


“Did I jump too?”

Sigh. “Yes.”

While I went with religion as a nightly comforter (as well as Dr Seuss), I went with science when he asked “why are we on earth?”

“Because it’s the only planet with air and water.”

“And icecream,” he added. Indeed.

It’s amazing to watch a little person learn. I watched my son recently use a computer for the first time. His concentration was impressive, his dexterity with the mouse a little confronting. I didn’t use a computer until I was about 12 years old. He’s four.

Simple things like “how do you put avocado on bread” and “what’s an email?” are also beyond endearing. Generally my daughter focuses on emotion: “you will make me cookies and that will make me happy!”. She’s big on being happy.

In fact, when I regaled her with YouTube clips of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” (since she always sang it in the car), she was transfixed. I could see the bewilderment and concern in her eyes. She watched him sing in pain and the questions came thick and fast. “Why is he sad? Why is she leaving him? Why is he yelling?”

It was all I could do, not to lift her away from the monitor and explain his pain wasn’t her burden. Let’s hope she never marries an artist!


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