Nearing age four, Smartypants is the quintessential demonstration of curiosity. It is a curiosity not easily ignored or satiated. And, at the expense of her well-meaning but often unhelpful father, the questions never cease.
Thus we find Daddy, Smartypants, and sleeping toddler demon Smiley drifting down a country road, whistling past prairie grasses and acres of drought-stunted corn stalks in an open-windowed automobile, listening to the wind as it blows back our hair and hums in our ears.
The sky is clear. The moon, a waning crescent a few degrees above the horizon, watches us from a perch slightly in front and to our left. It’s in an ideal location for Smartypants to let her head rest on her booster seat and stare at it through her open window.
“Sometimes,” she tells me, “the moon follows us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sometimes it follows us,” she clarifies. “But today, today, today its ahead of us, and we’re chasing it.”
“It seems that way, doesn’t it?”
“Why are we chasing it?” she asks. I don’t answer. “Daddy, why are we chasing the moon?”
“Well. Because it’s in front of us, so it seems like we have to catch up to it. We’re not really chasing it.”
“I think we are. Why are we chasing it?”
“We’re not really. It just looks that way.”
“Why does it look that way?”
“Umm. Because the moon is big. And we are small. And so the distance we travel is relatively minor compared to the size of planets and moons.”
Obviously, this makes no sense to her, and she asks, “Why is the moon big and us small?”
My usual response: “Umm…. Uh….” Until my genius prevails, “That’s just the way it is.”
“Planets are like houses,” I try. “People live on planets, so the planet must be really large for all the people to fit on it. Our planet is Earth. Everything you see around you is Earth. The moon is smaller than Earth, but it’s still really big.”
“It doesn’t look big.”
“That’s because it’s far away.”
“Why is it far away?”
“It’s in outer space. When you watch your shows and see people flying through space, that’s where the moon is.”
“Doesn’t look like it’s in space. I think it’s just in the sky.”
“Are there people on the moon?”
“Umm. It’s not suitable for people.”
“Well, there used to be people on the moon. But they all died.”
“They floated away into space.”
“Will we float away into space?”
“No. Only people on the moon. So don’t go there.”
“Okay. I won’t go there.”
And all was quiet. I thought she might have fallen asleep. When we were nearly home, I heard a casual “hmmm….” from the backseat. Stupidly, I asked, “What’s wrong, sweetie?” And all my deflection and stonewalling finally proved fruitless.
“Well, I was thinking, if we don’t want to go to the moon,” she said, “why are we chasing it?”
That’s the end of the original post. This is the “deserving artist hightlight” section. The image used above is pretty awesome, in my opinion. I found it online and borrowed it. The artist’s name is Catrin Welz-Stein and she’s in Switzerland. You can find more cool stuff by her at this website. Here’s the full image:
This was originally posted September 13, 2005 on my at-home-dad blog, The Daily Writer. I’m posting here for multiple-reasons. To create a single repository for my writing. To reflect, a decade later, on those early parenting days. And because so many of my friends, who were childless party-goers when these blog posts were written, now have kids of their own, making these words more relevant. To all those raising small children, you’re not alone. Many of your struggles and joys are common experiences shared by many, but the specifics belong solely to you and your child. No one can take them from you. Thankfully, the memories are more wonderful (and less stressful) in retrospect.