Why is the sky blue?
How can a whole tree come from a seed?
Where does rain come from?
Those are normal questions young children ask. They are also questions I can readily answer. Apparently, I don't have normal children—which, to be honest, is rather fun. I never know what my youngest will come up with.
She's asked me all kinds of odd things that I never would have thought to wonder about myself, like the etymology of various words (okay, so she didn't use "etymology," but that was the gist). I often don't know why we call something what we do, but it's great to say, "Let's find out when we get home," and then to boot up my trusty OED on CD and read about it.
She's wondered why the Earth is round when it's flat when you look at it. She's tried to figure out why water stays on the ground instead of flying off into space. (I'm not sure why she doesn't ask the same question about people. Apparently water is different?) I managed to field that one with a basic lesson on gravity.
Just the other day, she came up with her latest original query:
What do snails eat?
That one stumped me at first. What DO snails eat? Do they even have mouths? If folklore is to believed, salt will kill snails. And of course the French eat them. But I'd never given a moment's thought to what snails dine on.
I told her we'd go online soon and find out together, so yesterday she climbed on my lap by my computer, and we Googled her question.
Turns out that my guess was pretty close: they eat live and decaying plants. But they also eat other, more obscure things, like algae.
I almost closed the window, when she touched my mouse hand to stop me.
"Where do snails live?"
The site we were on answered that question, too. She insisted we read the entire web page, which told how long snails live, how big they grow, who are their predators, how they protect themselves, and all kinds of other fun things. (I didn't read her the part about how snails are hermaphrodites. That's a can of worms that would take a lot of explanation.)
At the bottom was a diagram of a snail's insides. We had to look at that, too. The mouth. The eyes (which are on the ends of their tentacles), the foot, the radula, and so on.
Then she posed her next question, asked with all the seriousness her little face could muster:
Where do snails go poop and pee?
If she were a boy, she'd have asked the question and giggled hysterically. And then maybe farted or burped for good measure. But no. She was genuinely curious. She wanted to know.
I had to study the diagram a bit closer. "Ah. There. Right there," I told her, pointing at "anus."
She tracked the process. "So here's the mouth. The food goes to the stomach, and then it comes out there. Right by the place the slime comes out." She was quite pleased with herself. A moment later she hopped off my lap, satisfied.
I love how curious she is about the world. It makes me wonder what her next question will be about. And then I start asking questions about new and exciting things that pique my curiosity. I look them up for myself. For all I know, I'll use some of my Googled questions in my writing some day.
A preschooler is a wonderful thing.
Snails? Not so much.
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