Q & A
“Hey Dada look, a exoskeleton!” said my four year old, thigh deep in the river, pointing to a stonefly husk on a midstream boulder.
“Seriously?” I asked, incredulous.
“Of course, it’s from the molting, cause see,” he continued quite conversationally.
“Did you actually just drop exoskeleton… and molting in casual conversation? Who’s kid are you?” I asked, realizing with a jolt that I was very nearly out of my depth, and with him not yet out of preschool. I was going to need to start brushing up on etymology.
“What kind of bush is that?” he asked, onto the next shiny thing.
Damn, botany too. “Uh… good question. Let’s ask Mom when we get home,” I replied, stalling for time, my eyes glued to a particularly fishy bubble-line.
I prevaricate a lot on the river these days. The questions come machine-gun style. Even if I had all the answers, I probably wouldn’t give them every time. There’s a fine line between sharing enough info to stave off frustration, and giving him enough elbow-room to claim his own adventure. Plus, I need to carve out some space for my own curiosities, one of which involves a certain eager shadow strafing the slack-water.
“Look! This snail doesn’t have shell, cause it’s a baby snail and… um… cause see babies don’t have the shells and um… Dada why doesn’t my baby snail have a shell? He’s soooooo cute, can I keep him forever!?”
Where do you even start with a question like that? I have no idea. Luckily I still have the ultimate trump card up my sleeve.
“Absolutely not,” I say, then pause, just long enough to set the hook. “But do you want to pet a fish?”
Works every time.