When I was a young man little girls were made up of sugar and spice and everything nice. Little boys, similarly, were made up of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, at least according to the wooden signs that hung in my bedroom back then. The statements seemed a little unfair to me even then, but if Mother in all her infinite wisdom, had hung them on the wall of my bedroom, they must be true.
I was content that the wisdom of the wall decor would someday become clear to me. Declan on the other-hand, does not seemed to be equipped with that state of contentment, although I do see an abundance of puppy dog tail in him.
As he and I walked to the car, after his kindergarten class was dismissed earlier this week, he asked with his usual curious tone, "What is water made up of?"
My mind went blank and I struggled to respond, "Um...its made of...um, you know, water."
He looked up at me with one eye squinting in the sunlight, attempting to judge whether or not I was trying to be funny, "No, what's it made of?" he repeated.
I was at a loss for an intelligent response and simply said, "You know, I have no idea man, we will have to look it up when we get home."
Declan laughed out loud and then began rambling on about some new army toy he was going to play with as soon as we got home. As we buckled in I kept thinking to myself, "What the heck is water made of?"
During the evening hustle and bustle of getting dinner ready, doing dishes and preparing for the next day, Declan and I forgot to look up the answer to his question. The next morning the question popped back into my head shortly after arriving at work, so I asked the newsroom, "What is water made up of?"
Of course, our editor shot back an instantaneous response, "Two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen, why?"
I must admit I initially felt a little bit like a knuckle-head by comparing his instinctive response to my blank minded stuttering, when faced with the same question from my 6-year-old the day prior. But the more I thought about it the clearer the wisdom of the painted sign became.
If I had shot that answer back at Declan it would have immediately multiplied into three questions seeking the definition of an atom, hydrogen and oxygen. Which, assuming I was able to respond with sensible definitions of those, would have multiplied into a greater number of questions that would have succeeded only in confusing Declan for the entire ride home.
There is nothing I cherish more than the conversations I have with my little man, but I think I gained some acceptance into the limits of my knowledge. From now on when Declan approaches me with a question I am ill-equipped to answer, I have decided to invoke the knowledge of those painted signs from my childhood bedroom.
While I may have a tough time convincing him that his older sister is made of sugar and spice and everything nice, the next time she is refusing to allow him access to her laptop, I think he would have taken that answer as a suitable definition for what makes water, water.