July 25, 2009

What Happen If? Questions from a Four-year-old

January 2008

My son doesn't ask why, why, why, like other kids.

He never phrases his questions like a typical preschooler, "Mommy, why is the moon in the sky?" or "Mommy, why do airplanes fly?"

No, my boy practices his own special brand of repetition in his quest for knowledge. His developing intellect wants to know, "What happen if..?" followed by a scenario that is invariably ridiculous, impossible, and where someone always gets hurt.

For instance, he might ask, "What happen if an airplane crashes into the moon?" Then he waits a fraction of a second before repeating the question until I'm forced to come up with an answer my son, with his limited logic, can understand. "An airplane can't fly far enough to reach the moon," I'll say.

Now that he's successfully engaged me, the questions escalate. "What happen if a Martian on the moon jumps on top of the airplane?" I try to stop the silliness by saying, "That wouldn't happen, honey. Martians are from Mars, not the moon, and besides, there are no such things as Martians."

He quickly counters with something like, "But what happen if the Martian is from Texas and is so bad and mean that he ates the man's arm up – his arm and his feet, and the man got so mad that the Martian ended up in his tummy?"

I know better than to enable the conversation further by asking where the angry, hungry man came from. He came from my son's limitless imagination, which I am loathe to suppress, but really, there's just so many ludicrous situations I can wrap my mind around in any given day.

"The Martian will probably get put into a major time out if he can't stop bugging the man," I say, shooting my son a meaningful look.

Ah, if only it were so easy. The incorrigible youngster barely gasps in enough air to fill his little lungs before beginning what will surely be a dizzyingly complicated and implausible narrative.

In desperation, I point over his shoulder and exclaim, "Oh, my gosh, Spongebob Squarepants just came through the front door!"

He whips his head around. "Where?"

By the time he turns back around, I'm in Texas with the Martian.

The following is a recent conversation, as near as I can remember:

"What happen if blood is on my finger and I see something coming out?"

(I tell him we go get a Band aid.)

"What happen if a termite comes out?"

(There are no termites in your finger.)

"What happen if it is really big?"

(That's just silly, now knock it off.)

"What does knock it off mean?"

(It means stop it.)

"What happen if we find a dinosaur bone when we're at school?"

(That would be cool.)

"What happen if the dinosaur bites me on the butt?"

(Dinosaurs are all gone and we don't talk about your butt, remember?)

"What happen if you have really strong pants? Then the dinosaur can't bite you."

(For goodness sake, will you stop?)

"And if he did, his teeth would all fall out and break like glass and be on the ground and somebody would step on it and it would cut their feet all into little pieces and-mmmph!)

(This time it's my hand, next time I'm breaking out the duct tape, do you understand?)

Shakes his head no.

(Oh, for gosh sakes, never mind. )

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