When you live with a highly verbal preschooler, you soon realize that every conversation is actually a thin path bordered on each side by miles and miles of quicksand. And you, the parent, do not know the path at all. And your preschooler just happens to regard quicksand as her natural habitat.
I am thinking of the conversation Cora and I had in the car about a year ago, when I was explaining Memorial Day and why it was a holiday, and soon found myself facing the laser-beam gaze of a four-year-old asking, "Would you die for your country, Mommy?"
Which brings me to the most recent episode. The one that got me thinking that Cora actually does know the path, but the path she wants me to follow her down is indeed overlaid with quicksand, and so long as I don't panic, we will be just fine. The thing about these conversations is that they always seem to come out of nowhere. Sunday evening, we were watching Nickolodeon after dinner - I am not sure why, but iCarly has caught Cora's attention in a big way - and Cora was also coloring on the floor while I caught up with some editing work. Then she asked me if the world started when Baby Jesus was born.
This was actually still sure-footing territory, because if there is one thing I am clear on, it is that the world existed for a very long time before that point in history. And I thought it would be cool to talk about evolution and dinosaurs and so on. But, she cut off the science talk to ask why the people "crossed him." We are nowhere near Easter! Where is this coming from?!
Cora might be much smarter than me, because I'm pretty sure that it took me another six years to realize that being nailed by your hands and feet does not kill you. And that was her next question: If they didn't put a nail through his head, why did he die? And this is where I thanked Mary Roach and her book Stiff for providing me the answer, which I delivered in short, relatively non-graphic language. (But, face it, once you are talking about crucifixion, you are in the graphic language whether you want to be or not.) And then we were back to why, and a discussion of Biblical-times politics.
How much of this has to do with amorphous knowledge of the Arizona shootings? Did she hear Chris and I talk about it? Something in the air? We don't watch news shows with her, and I don't think they do "breaking news" on Nick or PBS. Is it just synergy? Even though I often fumble my way through the theological discussions, trying to tread that thin line between cultural and personal assumptions and beliefs, I find the discussions of real-world violence harder. I would rather explain the mechanics of childbirth than try to explain war.
Which means I have my work cut out for me, because I have read, written, and thought a lot about certain world events, and one day Cora is going to be able to read. She's going to look at those collections of books and have some big questions about words like Holocaust, genocide, Rwanda, and others that she can find in our volumes of history, politics, literature, poetry, and graphic novels.
Really, it has already started, because she's seen The Sound of Music, and while you don't have to go into the whole WWII history, you do have to talk a little about Nazis. And, thinking she would love the dancing, I did show her some clips on YouTube of West Side Story, which turned out to require a primer on gangs and the politics of the "other".
There are so few sure pathways!