I had this really great, and really terrifying moment with my five-year-old daughter the other day. It all started with sloths. We were on our way to get ice cream after dinner, and the topic came up.
She’s been doing a rainforest unit in her senior kindergarten class, and I guess they read some kind of sloth book.
“Oh, yeah, sloths,” I said with great authority. “They live in the water, right?”
She looked at me like I was on drugs.
“No, Mummy. They hang from trees!!”
“Really?” I said. “I didn’t know that.”
And, really, I didn’t. My complete knowledge of sloths up until that point had been a vague sort of suspicion that they were mammals, and that they were kind of slow, or lazy… or something like that. I think I had them a little bit confused with manatees, to tell you the truth. You know those big flubbery animals that hang out at the muddy bottoms of rivers and eat all day?
“How do they get into the trees?” I asked, really interested now.”Can they fly?” I was pretty sure they couldn’t—-but I wasn’t positive.
“No, Mummy! They climb! And they make a cradle out of their bodies to swing their babies in.”
“Seriously?!” I said. “I never knew that!”
“Yes you did,” she said accusingly. “You knew that!”
“No, I swear, I really didn’t,” I assured her. “You know WAY more about sloths than I do.”
And then she gave me this look, and I could see the realization hit her like some kind of life-changing tidal wave: MY MOTHER DOES NOT KNOW EVERYTHING! Really, it was kind of major. And when the news had washed over her, she was left looking extremely proud, but also a little bit afraid–which was EXACTLY how I was feeling.
“Do you know anything about bats?” she asked… and luckily I knew a little bit about bats, so I was somewhat redeemed in her eyes.. but not entirely.
Can you remember the exact moment you realized your parents weren’t all-knowing and all-powerful? Personally, I can’t (and I’m still inclined to think that, even if they don’t know EVERYTHING, they really do know most of what matters).
I have to admit, though, that being on the other side of that discovery was both really really humbling, and really really cool. It got me thinking about how much my little girl is going to see in her life, and how much she’s going to know that I never will.
Not to brag or anything, but she’s a really smart kid. She can already read—-at 5!! And she’s almost as good at math as I am (which doesn’t say much about my numerical abilities, but still…) I can forsee that she’s going to surpass me in every way possible…
And don’t get me wrong. I think that’s great. I hope that she learns and learns and learns, and grows and grows and grows. I just also hope that, even when she’s become a world class mathematician/sloth expert, she’ll still need me, at least a little bit. And that she’ll come home once in a while to fill me in… about advanced math theories… or sloth mating habits, or whatever… even if all I can do in response is nod my head and say “SERIOUSLY? I never knew that!”