01 February 2016

My Son Thinks I'm a Genius

(Note: A few years ago, I wrote a few posts for a local parenting publication. The following is a post that never ran.)

During my professional career, I once heard a wise man say, “It’s OK not to know the answer to every question you’re asked. You shouldn’t pretend you do. Just say you’ll find the answer – and then do it.”

That’s easier said than done when you’re dealing with a 4-year-old.

My son, Billy, doesn’t ask “why”, but man does he ask questions! I’m lucky if I know the answers to half of them. Unfortunately, telling him I’ll get back to him is never the answer he’s looking for.

A few weeks ago, Billy asked me how bees had babies. Um, um, um. When a mommy bee and a daddy bee love each other … . Kidding. I stalled and asked him what he meant. Luckily, he gave me the clue I needed. He wanted to know if they laid eggs or had “real” babies. Thank goodness I have a smart phone, because mommy is not up-to-date on bee reproduction. (They lay eggs, in case you were wondering. But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

My phone and the Internet have helped me dozens of times since that first occasion. Billy is full of great questions. Amazing questions. Things I’ve never thought about, or take for granted, he wants to know. I’m learning as much as he is! (Did you know, for example, that there are currently active volcanoes in Alaska? Me neither!)

Sometimes I make a game out of finding the answers to Billy’s questions. A lot of times I ask him what he thinks the answer is before I tell him. But I never pretend to know answers I don’t. And I don’t try to act like I’m a genius, even though he thinks I am. I want him to come to me with any question he has – whether it’s about watermelons or girls. They say if we listen to our kids when they talk about the small stuff, they’ll come to us with the big stuff. That’s what I want. Ten years from now when he’s thinking about college, I want my son to come to me. Thirty years from now when he starts dating, I want him to come to me. And I want him to value my answers and advice.

I am not always right. And I won’t always be right. Heck, the Internet isn’t always right. I could answer his questions with an incorrect (or silly) answer and he’d accept it. But I want that connection with him. Now – as we dream up stories about bee babies, cuddle on the couch looking at volcano pictures on my phone and laugh when he says he has to check with his teacher about whether watermelons are living because he doesn’t believe me – and down the road. 

One of these days, Billy will figure out I’m not a genius, but for now, thanks, smart phone. I owe you one!

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