For me, one delight of fatherhood is the questions Nick asks. Usually the questions arrive at bedtime, when he’s safely under his blanket.
My favorite came a couple of years ago, when he was six.
“Dada,” he says, “Can I ask you something?”
“I mean…but…” he said, “How can you even imagine nothing?”
I’m sure this is how Einstein got his start.
“That’s a wonderful question, Nick,” I said. “How about when it’s dark and you look up at the sky and there’s so much space between the stars?”
“But space is something.”
There followed a long discussion about the big bang, which did little to settle the mystery but made us both feel closer.
Recently, I was stopped cold by this one:
“Dada, how much do you know about the world?”
Where had it come from? Where should I go with it?
“How do you mean?” I said.
“I mean, from one to a million.”
“Oh. You mean how much do I know about the world on a scale from one to a million?”
Was my brain about to be stamped with a number? I wasn’t having a great week. I was too tired to think much. I decided to go with what I was feeling in the moment. When in doubt, tell the truth.
“I’d say five.”
“Five out of a million?”
In the pale light of his night lamp his face sort of dropped. From this I inferred that he had supposed I would have encompassed a somewhat larger scope.
“The world is a very big place, Nick,” I said in my defense. Was there no credit for humility?
“That’s all right,” he said.
That was the end of it. I went to sleep with the uneasy feeling that the ink was indelible.
The next evening, I told the story to my men’s group.
“Really, it’s the wrong question,” said one. “The right question would be, ‘what are the things you know about?’ Because everyone knows a lot about something.”
Fortified, I went back to Nick the next day and re-visited the subject.
“You know, Nick,” I said, “I suppose there are some things I know quite a lot about.”
A lot more than a five is what I meant.
“Well, medicine. I know about that. Men. Plays. I know a lot about those things. Everyone knows a lot about something.”
“Oh,” was all he said.
For the second time, that was the end of it. He didn’t ask me to hazard a new number. I resigned myself to being a five in his eyes. But last week fate provided another chance: I noticed that a hundred people had visited this blog in one day.
“Jeez,” I said. “I just had a hundred hits!”
I found out later that the traffic was the result of a generous recommendation posted by another dad blogger. (Thank you, Clark Kent’s Lunchbox.)
Nick, who takes an occasional interest in the blog, overheard my exclamation.
“A hundred people?” he said. “That’s a lot.”
Not a lot for some blogs, though a lot for me. A prodigious lot more than five. But I didn’t say that.
I said, “Sure is.”
. . .
How much do you know about the world? Have you ever worried that your kid, or any kid, was disappointed in you? I’d love you to add your comment below. I (nearly) always write a response here.