Last week I was sitting with my son having lunch at a restaurant. He was quieter than normal, and I could tell something was on his mind. He was intently examining each of his french fries before taking a bite.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“This is a vegetable right dad?” He asked waving an unusually long fry in the air.
"No, not really."
"What about this pepper? Is this a vegetable?"
“Yes, it is.”
~ PAUSE ~
“Where did the restaurant get them?”
“From a food distributor,” I told him.
“Well, how do they make them?”
“Where did they get the seeds?”
“From the peppers.”
I began to sweat in anticipation of his next question fearing I may not know the answer.
“Well, if I eat this pepper and the seeds, where do they get more seeds?”
“From the seed store,” I retorted in desperation.
I could see he wasn't going to let this go any time soon and we now had an older couple sitting across from us intently listening to our exchange eagerly anticipating his next contemplation.
Finally, Connor, who is 4 years old, looked at me directly and said, “Well, where did they get the seeds in the olden days before the seed stores?”
The older gentlemen suddenly choked on his soda and laughed out loud. He looked at me with a mischievous but playful grin and shrugged his shoulders with raised eyebrows as if to say, ‘he’s got a good point dad.’
“Just eat your fries Connor.”
I have these types of conversations regularly with my children. And each time, I am not only in awe of their thought processes but also just how insightful they can be.
Recently, my daughter Zoe was having some difficulty with her homework.
“Dad, can you help me with my math homework?”
I started sweating again. Granted, she’s only in first grade but there was a very deliberate reason why I majored in English and avoided anything requiring any form of mathematical computation without the assistance of a computer. But my uneasiness quickly subsided knowing that, after all, this was only first grade.
“Of course I can” I assured her knowing that my ability to help her would most likely cease by the time she got to high school.
"What’s the difference between and odd and even number?" she asked.
Ummmm. Uh oh.
It’s easy to give examples of such but try explaining it to a 7 year old.
Thank goodness for Google.
"Even numbers have partners; odd numbers do not."
It seems that kids today are faced with much more demanding and challenging schoolwork than even compared to those 5 or 10 years ago. In first grade, I certainly never had homework. In fact, I never really had any significant or challenging homework until I got to high school. Fast forward to today, I come home to first grade math and reading exercises every night. It can be time-consuming and tiresome after working all day but there are those moments that just take your breath away when your child’s eyes light up when they learn something new about the amazing world we live in - or they finally figure out a word problem all on their own with which they had been struggling.
It has been immensely rewarding to watch my girls be able to read a book independently and to see the excitement and pure joy they show knowing they just accomplished something they have never done before. And to hear their little brother ask them to read him a book and then eagerly curl up together to do so is priceless. It’s a gift to watch and be instrumental in that transformation.
Admittedly, this is only the first grade, and I know all too well that in a very short time the homework and exercises will become exponentially more difficult. They will be looking to my wife and me to help them, which is both exciting and slightly intimidating. In no small way, we as parents have helped to give them the gift of learning each day but I'm especially grateful for the wonderful and amazing teachers that have given our children the building blocks for a lifetime of learning.
As we venture down the path to 2nd, 3rd, 4th grades and beyond, the questions will be harder; the answers will be less clear. Not only do I fear the day I don't have all the answers but I also fear the day my kids realize it too. But I also look forward to the day they are able to teach old dad some new tricks.
For now, I'll settle for 'where do seeds come from’ because in the not so distant future, he's going to demand an answer for “where do babies come from?”
And my go-to, “Eat your fries Connor” just won't suffice anymore.
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