Our four-year-old son is very, very inquisitive, just like many kids his age. He likes to know how things work, he’s an observer and experimenter, and he takes things apart so he can mess with them and figure out what’s going on. He’s smart enough to take in information, digest it, and apply it appropriately to other situations. He’ll learn something, chew on it for a while, and then come back to you with follow-up questions that make you wonder what’s really happening in that brain of his.
For example, a few months back, his preschool class was learning about the planets in our solar system. One day he’s sitting at the table and asks, “Mommy, why do we live on Earth?!” From his inflection I could tell he wasn’t just asking how we ended up here, he was asking, “Of all the planetary choices we have in this galaxy, how and why did we end up on this one?”
I tend to answer him in what I hope is an honest and age-appropriate way. I don’t want to dumb down or falsify information for him because I respect his brain too much for that. Sometimes I don’t always think it through fully before my mouth starts, though.
“Mommy, is that magic?” “No, sweetie, that’s physics.” “What’s physics?” (Oh dear … um …) “Uh … it’s how different things in our world move together and against each other to make things happen.”
“Mommy, do drive and hide rhyme?” “No, because they don’t sound exactly the same. When they sound a lot the same but not exactly, that’s assonance.” “Hmm … assonance.” (Mother-light dawning … Oh boy, thank goodness he said that word correctly.)
“Mommy, who is Saint Nicholas?” “He was a very nice man who lived a long, long time ago who loved God so much that he wanted to help other people and be nice to them by giving things to them.” (Oh crap — I answered for the actual Saint Nicholas, not thinking about Santa Claus. Did I just ruin Santa Claus’s story before we even started it?!)
He’s never brought up Santa Claus, we haven’t pushed it, and I’ve never wanted to force an idea on him. It’s one topic that I’ve felt is sort of awkward to work into conversation. I don’t want to push the idea of being good only so you get presents, I do want the holiday to be fun and for our kids to have great memories. I have no problem with talking about Jesus’s birth being the reason for Christmas and we celebrate by giving gifts because Jesus was God’s gift to us. Working the Santa connection, though, has been weird. The stories don’t flow well.
Tonight, though, I asked Seth (and Nora, our two-year-old), “Seth, do you think that Santa Claus brings presents to boys and girls?” Wide eyes and nodding. (Nora: “And he say ‘Ho ho ho!'” A week or so ago it was “He say ‘Ha ha ha!'”) “Do you hope that Santa comes to our house to leave presents for you and Nora?” More nodding. “Would you like to leave a note for Santa?” “Oh, YES!”
I guess it wasn’t that hard to start the tradition after all …