There is a terribly frustrating phase toddlers go through when all they ask is "why?"
You have to sit in a car seat. Why?
You can't eat all the cookies. Why?
Spaghetti has to be cooked. Why?
The umbrella keeps us dry. Why?
You can't cook an umbrella. Why?
And there is a humiliating phase kids go through when they learn things you may have learned, let's say, 36 years ago. (I asked my daughter to double-check my math.)
I have had to research the answers to many questions since my oldest started the first grade in September. Sometimes that is because she asks and I can't remember the answer. Sometimes it is that I have answered her, and I am pretty sure I was wrong. Sometimes we argue, and after I look up the correct answer, I try to distract her.
The following are not her questions. Rather, they very closely resemble the Internet searches I did because I: A) didn't learn anything in school; B) have no short- or long-term memory; and/or C) drink more than I think I do.
Is the Milky Way the only galaxy?
What are "math fingers"?
Are all ballet terms French?
Does it always snow in the mountains?
How are cartoons made?
Are robots real?
Where is Iceland?
How do you grow rice?
What's the biggest TV you can have?
What happens if you never sleep?
How does a radiator work?
How is soda made?
Song lyrics from "Annie"
What happens if there is a tie for Mayor?
Does the Mayor have a plane?
Does the secret service let the President shower alone?
I was thinking about all these because yesterday, the three kids accompanied me to vote in the New York City elections. We went midday, when many people were using their lunch break to vote. It was crowded, and I was a little confused -- I never changed our address since moving last year. (This can be a big problem.)
The kids were fascinated with the process (they were with us when we voted for President last year after Sandy, traveling from our hotel in midtown back to the flood zone so that we could vote). They wanted to see what "all the other people" were doing. (This is also a big problem.) They wore their "I VOTED" stickers proudly, until they fell off in Starbucks.
The truth is that I almost skipped voting yesterday. With the three kids off for the day, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. But the first grader asked, almost first thing after breakfast, "When are we going to vote?" (And I had to explain to my 4-year-old son that there is no "boat." We are going to "vote.")
And I too, was proud that they saw once again our process of electing our leaders. We were thanked when we walked into the polling place. Just for coming to vote. Like so many of my friends who posted their voting pictures on Facebook last night, I, too, was choked up by the experience.
We stopped at the drug store on the way back. As we waited for a prescription to be filled, an elderly lady walked over, and we got up so she could sit. She said to my children how generous it was that we offered her our seat in the waiting area.
"That is what we do when someone needs a seat, right?" I said to my three little ones, thinking I sounded like a good mother. The mother who teaches her children manners. The mother whose children behave among adults.
"Because we are lucky," they reminded me.
This post first appeared on Appleseeds Blog.