The other night Elli asked me "What do you think of being a dad and an uncle?"
It isn't a hard topic, but figuring out how to answer that question was tricky. I have a nephew and a niece, and I wasn't sure if she was referring to one or the other in particular. I am closer to my nephew because he is my brother's kid, but my niece has more recently arrived. I had a bit of a protective reaction when I found out my nephew was born, and the same thing did not occur when my niece arrived.
I tried to get Elli to elaborate on what exactly she wanted to understand, but she either didn't understand what she wanted, couldn't explain it, or didn't want to explain. All of those things happen regularly, children's limited understanding being what it is, so I ended up going on a long, rambling explanation about how being a parent and being an uncle changed me.
I don't feel like being an uncle really matters much. It doesn't change my identity one whit, and it has only a tiny effect on my life. I can't say if other people feel that way, but for me parenthood has been a huge thing that changed everything about how I live while having a niece and nephew was pretty irrelevant.
This ambiguity about what exactly Elli wanted to know is one of the things about parenting that I didn't anticipate. I knew there would be challenges, but I didn't expect how often the challenges would take the form of pure confusion. I don't know what Elli wants, and she probably doesn't know what she wants, so I am just flailing about wildly trying to give her information and hoping that it works out.
There is real fun in answering these questions though. I didn't anticipate that so much either. I like just rambling on about stuff, and if I don't have a particular teaching goal in mind I can just pour out my brain and let her examine it.
Parenthood doesn't define me. That is one concrete thing I was able to tell her. I do the parenting thing, but being Dad isn't my identity. I am just Sky, a guy who has a kid.
I wonder what lessons she takes from these sorts of conversations. I don't want to ascribe too much import to any individual thing, but I wish I could know what the effects of my choices are on her. For science, if nothing else.