You know the endless chain of questions your kid asks?
You know how at the first question you ask yourself if you should “engage” and subject yourself to the endless chain?
You know how you inevitably do “engage” which leads to the next question?
You know how after the first few answers, you’ve chosen a “direction”, either based in truth or maybe not so much?
You know how regardless of the level of truth, you start to corner yourself even though the questions continue?
You know how you tell yourself that “they” will run out of energy or attention for this line of questioning before you run out of answers?
You know when you realize you were wrong?
That’s when I realized we were stuck on the window…with nowhere to go.
I like to consider myself a pretty good improvisor, particularly when it comes to conversations with kids. I was a camp counselor for a long time, enjoy “Whose Line Is It Anyway”, and frankly find it entertaining to challenge myself. Of course, Julianna and Chloe have at least some DNA in common and seem to also enjoy the challenge, but they aren’t in it for the entertainment. They are craving information. They are trying to assign reason to life’s quandaries. They are buying into the NBC “The More You Know” campaign. They are figuring that if they get ALL the answers, there will be nothing to be scared of.
Today, Julianna was off at a birthday party with my wife (we have them essentially constantly). Chloe and I went to do some errands. Both girls enjoy the single-kid car rides because it means they have exclusive rights over song selection. She chose music from the Broadway show, Wicked, and the song Defying Gravity in particular.
No matter how many times they hear this music, they both want to hear the story over and over again. Who is who? Who did what? Which is when? Why did how? Over and over. And so it shouldn’t have surprised me when today’s bait question arrived during listen #4 of Defying Gravity:
“Daddy, what does gravity mean?”
Without pause I accepted the challenge (I’m a nerd and can’t resist, particularly when they ask me questions that I think can lead to a real science or math discussion). I asked myself quickly how I would explain what gravity was? Somewhere in the back of my head I knew that she was really asking about the word in the context of the song but Captain Geek had to step in and Carpe Diem.
I came up with what I thought was a pretty good explanation: “Its the thing that keeps us stuck to the ground. Without it we’d all be floating. In space, there’s no gravity and that’s why everything floats.” And then, I came up with the big finish (or so I thought): “Imagine if there was a magnet in the middle of the Earth and we all had magnets on our…”
“Daddy, does Elphaba float?”
And we’re hooked. Please forgive the Wicked references moving forward…
“Well, sort of, it is really her broom that is floating. She’s just riding it.”
“How does she get on?”
“You know, she just outs a leg on one side and the other leg on the other side and floats.”
“But is she floating in side the Wizard’s castle?”
“Yes.” (this is the moment when I am trying to end the conversation or redirect or get her to lose interest)
“Why is she in the Wizard’s castle?”
So we’re not even talking about gravity anymore, which is killing my Nerd-High.
“She’s in the castle to…[oh I don’t know]…help the flying monkey’s get back to where they belong.”
“Where do they belong?”
“Well, flying monkeys are really much happier when they are living in the jungles and stuff.”
“Are there flying monkey’s in the trees behind our house.”
“No, there are no flying monkey’s anywhere except in Oz.”
“Does the Wizard know that Elphaba is letting the monkey’s out?”
“You know, I’m not sure about that.”
“Do you think he knows?”
“I don’t know. He’s the one with the [air quotes] magical powers. I can’t read his mind.” (this is where I start to get snippy and resentful).
“Take a guess.”
“Umm, yes. I think he knows.” (this is where I know I’m completely screwed. Either answer here leads to about a million more question possibilities and I know she’s smart enough to think of them all – I’ll spare you)
“So how does Elphaba get them out?”
“I imagine she opens a window.”
“You imagine or really?”
“Really.” (similar to monkeys, I’m sort of throwing feces around now)
“How do they get out of the window?”
“Well, they have wings so they probably just fly out.”
“What if they don’t fit out the window?”
“But what if they don’t?”
“I looked it up on google, they’ll fit.”
“Do they take turns going out the window?”
“Yes, they have to take turns because they can’t all fit at once.” (mistake)
“How many can fit at once?”
“So, we’re stuck on the window?”