Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Evolution for Preschoolers (and Dummies)

My fantasy that once I got my boobs and bed back this motherhood gig would be a breeze isn’t exactly panning out.

The other day J asked, “Mama, how do people get made?”

And I thought I had a good answer, “Everybody grows in their mommy’s tummy until they’re big enough to be born.”

"But," he countered, “what about the first babies? How did there get to be babies before there were any mommies?”

Now, I never expected to have to have a conversation of this nature with a four year old. I mean it’s difficult enough to discuss the chicken and the egg with adults over a cappuccino, let alone with a preschooler over a Juicy Juice. If you’re going to discuss the origin of life, if not some Peyote, at the very least some caffeine is in order, no?

More importantly, “handling the origin of life questions” is explicitly part of my husband’s job description (I have the contract right here), but (inconveniently) he was at work during this conversation. So in his absence I gave it my best shot, but nothing I said was satisfying J and so finally I just fell back on the handy “God made the first mommies.” We were both pleased and I’m sure God saw that it was good.

But then I had to fess up to my husband, who was not impressed. Listen, I never promised I could teach our kids molecular biology. In fact I told my husband that I was going to blog about evolution and he said, “Oh my god, you’re totally going to embarrass yourself and me. Don’t do it!”

I bore the man two beautiful children and this is how he talks to me. But he has his reasons. You see anytime the topic of evolution has come up I’ve furrowed my brow and said, “I dunno… seems a little far-fetched to me.”

And he’s always responded by saying, “Are you some kind of religious nut?”

And I’m not, but I’ve always thought that some day science would come up with a better explanation... one that made sense. So I tried to defend my answer to J.

Me: Well… I just don’t see how blah blah blah could happen… it just doesn’t make sense.

Husband: What? Of course blah blah blah could never happen. That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!
Me: See! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!

Husband: But that has nothing to do with the theory of evolution.
Me: Well what is it then?
Husband: …Truly blah blah blah… therefore blah blah blah…and henceforth and ever after blah blah blah.
Me (shrug): Really? Well that makes sense. I can totally see how that might happen.
And there was much eye rolling. And the gatekeeper at atheist heaven prepared a special room for my husband for dutifully winning souls to the kingdom of science.

Now I suppose you’re wondering how I managed to live for thirty-six years (and graduate from college, for crying out loud) without learning the theory of evolution? Perhaps because while my ninth grade classmates were learning biology, I was writing random quotes and observations (and drawing cartoons to match, which have sadly been lost) in my notebook:

Hey, can I help it that somehow I already knew I was destined to be nothing more than a navel-gazer? By the way, the last paragraph on this high school days exhibit says, “She’s not a tribute to the American education system.” Oh the irony!

Of course, now it’s too late for me, so back to the task of screwing up my kids. I asked my husband how, exactly, he thought he would explain what he’d just explained to me in a way that would make sense to a four year old, and he couldn’t come up with a good answer either. So here we are. Not winning the “parents of the year” award. Hoping J forgets all about the dreaded chicken/egg dilemma until ninth grade and then just asks his biology teacher. Posted by Picasa


Big Orange said...

y'all ain't a-gonna join the ranks of the Intelligent Design debate, is ya? Besides, if you know enuff to do your job, then you don't need to know all the dee-tails of evolution. Besides, that's what is for! don't know? LOOKIT UP!!

Besides, when you come down to it, 4 y.o.'s are forever looking for the "what next?" answer. Close the book at the end of the story time and inevitably there's the question "what happened then?"

Besides, whether you're talking evolution or particle physics or Derridian deconstruction, at a certain level, NOTHIN' makes any sense!!

Redneck Nerdboy! said...

Sometimes I just want to lay down in a fetal position under the desk and cry. But my parents keep telling me the rewards far outweigh the bad things... I'm still waiting!


Jill said...

Will "Intelligent Design" give me a basis to respond to my preschooler's questions about how electronic devices work? Cuz if so, I'm a convert. Really, I mean someone intelligent must have designed my TV, right? At least it is better than telling him that a tiny Elmo is alive inside our TV.

Food Mum said...

The more I listen to my children's questions, the more I realise how a lot of bible stories evolved. I used to try and explain things scientifically too, but my younger children are far more satisfied with the God made it answers than with the overly detailed ones. Maybe they're more connected to their spiritual side at that age! Except my son was never happy until he had the last exact detail about how babies are made etc. I guess it takes all sorts. Anyway what seems more likely to a four-year old - God making us or us coming from monkeys.....?!

Anjali said...

This post reminds me of something a friend of mine told her son when he asked her where the baby comes out of the mommy. She told him, "from between my legs." I thought this answer was fantastic (true, yet at the same time, doesn't get into the details). Unfortunately, I'm too stupid to answer most of my four year old's questions. But thank goodness Google isn't!

ninepounddictator said...

I like the God answer. In fact, I'm going to answer "God did it" for everything...

I am so dreading just not the many questions like, "What's that? What's that?" which I hear 4000 times a day now, but math..

I swear, when my kid has to do even math at a grade two level, I'm in big trouble.

Big Orange said...

course, there's always the Crabby Grandpa answer to everything:

LIL' KID: why is the sky blue, Grandpa?

CRABBY GRANDPA: because you've been bad, son.

THAT will guarentee a short end to the questions! Don't know much 'bout the kid's mental health, but at least it'll fix the questions problem! >:-}

moonpunter said...

PHM is HERE!!!

PunditMom said...

Careful about the "everybody" comment. My daughter, who is adopted, was not grown in my tummy! Having said that, my daughter, who is now 6, just wants to know how they get in there! :)