Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Three at one time

A few days ago Elli asked me "Daddy, where did the first human come from?"  The answer, of course, is that it is very complicated and there isn't exactly a first human.  Being able to say "Well dear, God made Adam and Eve" would be much simpler but instead I find myself trying not to get too deeply nested into scientific definitions.  I can try to give a simple explanation of evolution but I end up saying "generation" or somesuch and then Elli asks what *that* means and we get all tangled up without ever really answering the first question.  Heck, even ignoring the fact that she doesn't understand the concepts of mutation, generations or heritability of traits we have the issue that she doesn't really have a good concept of numbers bigger than 10.  She can count to 100 but I don't think numbers that big have an intuitive meaning for her; when I say that the first human was hundreds and hundreds of generations ago she probably thinks it happened about when her great grandma was born.

I finally got some semblance of an explanation of evolution completed by talking about babies and mothers instead of generations and she follows up with "Where do babies come from?"  This one should be easy for me; I know exactly what to say and the terminology shouldn't prove such a barrier, right?  Well, I ended up mentioning 'egg' in reference to a human egg but she took it as a chicken egg (quite understandably, though it sure made things confusing) and it took a bit to sort that out.  I finally noticed that she was giving me her 'I know the answer but I want to see what you will say' look and figured out that she remembered very well the explanation she got from Wendy a few months ago.  She was just unconvinced by the whole penis in vagina thing and wanted to see if Daddy would give the same explanation Mommy did.  It seems our stories matched up well enough though and she eventually stopped being suspicious; whether or not she believes me or is just convinced that we are both involved in some bizarre conspiracy is unclear.

I figured I was home free; after all, how many tough questions could I get in the space of five minutes?  One more, it turns out:  "Daddy, where do people go when they die?"

"Well Elli, when people die their bodies stop moving and their brains stop thinking.  We can still remember them and the things they did still matter but they don't do new things anymore."

"And their bodies rot away until there are only bones left!"

"And then we can dig up the bones!"

"Dig dig dig dig dig DIG!!!"

So it seems that me trying to come up with the perfect answers for her questions just isn't that important.  After all that careful phrasing and racking my brains for just the complexity of expression she is only interested in digging up human bones.


  1. Or they are cremated and no bones are left to dig, dig, dig.

  2. I can totally appreciate the comments about Ellie's intuitive understanding of numbers. Sarah is 8 now and still has no real appreciation of numbers bigger than ten.

    I can be quite difficult when dealing with money...