So here is another unexpected tidbit of parenting. Something I did not think about back when I was in the haze of poopy diapers and 90-minute naps.
From the time your kids are maybe four or five you have a lot to answer for. To them. They are natural inquisitors. Which seems so incredibly adorable (in someone else’s kid, natch) when you have a toddler who strings together two or three words at a time and then passes out in the back seat of the car.
Everything is why. Everything is how. Everything is but. Every change to routine has to be justified or the Earth will wobble on its axis. (Hint: It already is wobbling! Alert the media!)
I, stupidly, bought a different brand of milk than usual last week. I think it was because the expiration date was further away. Or because it was a special promotion — 1.1 liters for the price of 1. Or they didn’t have 1% milk in bags and that was what I wanted, so I bought a carton. If you are over the age of, say, 15 or 18 or 20, you probably wouldn’t give a damn about the WILDLY DIFFERENT-LOOKING MILK but would just pour it over your cereal or add it to your coffee or whatever because you have other things going on in your life besides giving this poor carton of milk the side-eye.
So over the past three days I have had to have multiple conversations about this milk. Leading to questions about economics, shelf-stable milks, and what it means to be homogenized. And boy, well, I will really try not to make this mistake again. (Apologies to the Tara dairy. Don’t worry, I am still your number one cottage cheese fan.)
But yes, parents: You get drawn in at first because they are young, still. They’re learning! You are your child’s first teacher! But chances are you have only one or two degrees, if that, and probably not in something relevant to what they want to know. Even if you know the answer to the first round of questions, there is going to be a zigzag you don’t expect. You will start by talking about a rainbow and instead of discussing optics or physics, you’re going to have to know how they made paint colors in the 16th century. You will have to have more breadth than the encyclopedia and be faster than Google.
But here’s the rub: You will never have to expound on something you know. You will never have match movies of the 1980s to their iconic songs. You will never have to explain why a tomato is actually a fruit. You will never have to opine on whether giving a cat the name Picky-Picky was a self-fulfilling prophecy. So you may as well abandon what you know and think. You won’t be needing it where you’re going.