September 14, 2011

Explaining the Unexplainable

Some things defy explanation.

Take Pringles potato crisps, for example. Does anyone know why it is indeed the case that once you pop, you truly can't stop? Is their ad slogan really just that effective? Do we have an ingrained need for partially hydrogenated plant oils? The world may never know.

Or how about green olives. Everyone I know has a mostly-empty jar of them in the back of their refrigerator that has been there since approximately 1974, and sometimes it came with their fridge when they moved into their house. Why in the world is it so hard to get rid of those things? The jar that resides at the back of the second shelf in my fridge has an olive near the bottom whom I've named Pete, because for some reason, it reminds me of a bald guy I know. Pete stares at me balefully with his pimento eye every time I open the fridge for a late night snack, seeming to say, "Please...please, eat me. I've been looking at the back of a pickle jar for years and I just can't stand it anymore!" But I never do. I'm not a big fan of green olives. Who knows why those briny little jars sit back there for decades? Pete might; he's older than I am, and therefore probably wiser.

Stonehenge. Teletubbies. The Bermuda Triangle. The number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. There are many unexplained mysteries out there. The one that has me thinking today is one of the oldest in existence (cue dramatic music): the evil that resides in the hearts of men. dun-dun-dun-DUUUUUN!

No, seriously.

Last night as he settled into bed, Brady initiated one of his patented late night conversations that usually catch me when my brain is at its most fried. These chats inspire a strange mix of feelings that is equal parts love (because of how sweet they are), fierce pride (that is one sharp kid!), and exasperation (since I'm trying to get little brother Riley to sleep in the same room and he can't do so when there's stimulating conversation to be had). Here's how it went down, straight out of the blue.

Brady: Daddy, does Bin Laden make bombs?

Me, flat-footed: Uhh...well, he did, honey. He blew up some big buildings and it was very sad because a lot of people got hurt. But our army caught him, so he won't make any more. Who was telling you about Bin Laden?

B: Tanner (a big-mouthed kid from his Kindergarten class) told me. Did the buildings fall in the Gulf of Mexico?

Me: No, it was in New York City.

B: Oh. Daddy, what if Bin Laden makes more bombs?

Me: Oh, he won't, bud. He's dead now.

B (long pause to think): But what if there are more Bin Ladens to keep making bombs?

An awfully terrible insight for a five-year-old, don't you think? Because there are, and Brady is worried about them. Thanks a lot, Tanner.

I went on to tell him that we live in the greatest, strongest country in the world, that we have an awesome army and navy and super-secret spies all over the place making sure that we're safe from bad people. Because that's what he was really asking: am I safe, dad?

I assured him that he is, and that set him at ease, but can a parent really guarantee that? No, we can't. The world is a wonderful place, filled with thousands of awe-inspiring things like pyramids and dinosaur bones and Silly Putty, and those are what a kid in his second week of Kindergarten should be thinking about, not death and destruction. But the fact is, the world is also a dangerous place in some respects, and as it get smaller and its inhabitants get closer together, the hatred of the evil ones becomes more palpable to us all. Even kids. Especially kids, because they usually process information with pure emotion. Am I safe, dad? I can't guarantee anything, kiddo, but it's my life's mission to keep you that way.

I'm not interested in sheltering my kids, and I don't think that the information supplied by big-mouth Tanner is going to ruin Brady's life. It just made me think. I'm approaching the phase of parenthood in which we have to start having difficult conversations about strangers and internet safety, war and (gulp) the birds and bees. I'll soon have to tell him what really happened on September 11, 2001. It's a weird feeling, as I'm sure many of you know.

And speaking of wars, I'm thinking about taking this war of information right back to Tanner. I wonder if I can get Brady to convince Tanner that the boogey-man lives in his closet. What do you think? I think two can play at this game.


  1. This was great Aaron. Gabriel is 6.5 and in 1st grade and we though this may be the year to talk about 9/11 and decided to only answer questions he asked, which as it happened, were none. He did come home from somewhere recently and ask if there were no prisons when Jesus was alive, and that's why they had to 'use the Cross.' Even that story has been hard for me to share much about, because I don't want him to spend much time thinking about the fact that there is that kind of hate and unkindness in the world. Good insight! And no wars waged on Tanner, save that for the kid who beats you to the birds and the bees talk!

  2. Ha! Great point, Kristie. At the rate we're going, I won't have to wait long...