When I first realized I was the father of two girls–this would have been after the second girl–it occurred to me that this might be my chance to (finally) learn about women, from the ground up. I was the fourth of four sons, so there wasn’t much help there, and I’d felt like I was playing catch-up all my life. It soon became clear why–watching first Ellie, then Nora play, I saw them early on trying on and acting out every conceivable human interaction, often taking each part in turn. When girls do eventually get into these relationships, it’s familiar ground: They wrote the book, while for a boy any scenario not described by the first law of motion, force equals mass times acceleration, is beyond his ken (and you can forget Barbie).
So, that’s all I’ve learned so far about gender differences: Men were born to lose. But there are other insights to be had concerning how a child tries to make sense of the world. With my kids, the best of these revelations seems to come when they are taking showers, which, for the youngest (4 and three-quarters), is a recently acquired trait. Showers get them all charged up and talkative–and, since they are still young enough to like to have someone in the bathroom with them while they do it–they provide a great forum to let you know what’s on their minds. Nora pops her soapy head around the curtain with each point she makes in her monologue, and most recently they were these:
“I think about something, and then I get real excited about it. I think, oh boy, that’s cool! But then I don’t know what to do with it.”
“I mean, I think of something to do, but I don’t know what to add to it. I get excited about it, and I want to add more stuff to it–I don’t know what to add.”
“You think of something, then another thing, another thing. You have some mind stuff in your head you don’t know what to do with. If you make up something, you can’t make it up because you’re already thinking about it, but you don’t know what to do with it.”
“I’m always thinking about a lot of things. That happens a lot with parents, too, they do something and they don’t know what to add, just like kids. Or they don’t know what to do, so they do something but they forget what it was. ‘You find your socks, you can’t find your glasses. You find your glasses, you can’t find your drink.’ ” (Here she’s quoting me.)
“It’s like you’re thinking about something first, you’re thinking about something second, then you can’t remember what you were thinking about first–it’s out! Don’t you think people’s heads are going crazy? They’re thinking of something to do, but they don’t know what to add to it–that’s why they’re going crazy.”
“I know what you mean,” I said to her.
“I know what everybody means,” she replied.
Talk to you tomorrow.