Once upon a time, I worried that my kid would never hold a conversation with other people. Therapy, however, has been going pretty well, so much so that the kid won't stop asking me or other people questions. Sometimes I get questions I'm regretfully ill prepared to answer.
"Mommy? What color is my skin?"
"Pink, I think."
"What color is Vincent's skin?"
"Why is my skin pink?"
"Because most people have something called pigment in their skin. Pigment makes your skin react to the sun to look a certain color all the time."
"For example my skin is pink most of the time, but if I get a lot of sun it get brown-ish"
I wasn't prepared to talk race, which is probably what my kid was alluding to. Part of it is, how do you explain race? "Some people's skin looks different. Sometimes that makes other people treat them differently"? Do I even want to broach that conversation unless the question is more direct? I dunno. I continue not to know. I never even had a working concept of race until I moved to the US, because in Europe people think more in terms of nationality than race (although that's changing there too :/).
Then, there's death. In September, the daughter's old daycare (that she still frequents 3 half days a week for the time being) moved up the 4 year olds to their older pre-K group. I picked up my daughter on her first day as a "Big kid", and she proceeds to ask me about fish and mortality.
"Mom, why does my classroom have a fish tank but no fish?"
"I don't know, honey. Did you ask your teacher?"
"What does 'dead' mean?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Is the fish dead? What does that mean?"
"It... uhm... means the fish was old and sick, but that doesn't happen very often. I promise."
I realize almost instantly that I'm visibly overreacting (but coming at the heels of having a cancerous growth removed, I was feeling kinda raw about the whole "death and dying" business), but I am not sure how to backtrack on it, and the daughter mentions something else. Whether she senses my discomfort or she's just distracted, I sigh silently and move on.
Then there's the times where I have to explain why I'm reluctant to let her be as independent as she might want to be. In her pride at being a "big girl", my otherwise careful kid has gotten a bit careless about road safety. Yesterday she almost walked in front of a car turning into a parking garage. I freaked the fuck out, and told her she was to never, ever do that again.
"Because you could have got hit by a car. That's bad."
"No, it is not okay. Getting hit by a car hurts."
"Why is it not okay for the car to get hurt?"
"It's not the car I care about. It's you. I don't want YOU to hurt. You'd have to go to the hospital for a long time."
"But hospitals fix you, mommy."
"I know, but I prefer not needing to be fixed in the hospital in the first place, because it takes time for the doctors to fix you, and while they do, you hurt the whole time."
For once, there were no follow up questions, though the look on her face told me she was skeptical about that last answer. All I have to say, I hope she never finds out I was telling the truth, while I know deep down that someday it will happen, somehow. It hurts just to think about.
This morning was the kicker, though. Returning from a doctor's visit, my daughter asks me why I call her "baby" when she's a big girl (her emphasis).
"Why do you say 'you'll always be my baby'?"
"Because it's true"
"But I'm not. I'm a big girl."
"I know. But when I look into your eyes, I remember what you were like as a baby, and it makes my heart big and squishy."
"Okay, but I'm not really a baby."
"I know, honey. I know."
I lied on that last one. She will always be my baby. I can't stop myself from thinking that. I tell myself that she'll only understand that one when she's a parent.