Saturday, 30 November 2013

Best of The Girl 3

Monday, 19 January 2009

My daughter is into quizzes now, so when we play together, she asks me to be the quizmaster and she and her stuffed animals are the contestants. Things my five-year-old knows:

Comfrey is good for a headache.

Puffins say “moo.”

Apples come from white flowers.

Gorillas are smart and gentle but can’t talk.

You can make cloth out of nettles.

The red bricks in the fields are peat, which you burn to keep warm, and which were plants back when there were elephants here.

Red flowers are usually pollinated by birds, because birds like red, and they usually don’t have a smell, because most birds can’t smell much.

Sometimes she went into more detail – answering a question that bees help flowers have babies, she said, “We need to make sure bees are okay, because if they get sick there will be no one to take care of the flowers, and if the flowers goed away, all the girls in the world will be sad because no one will give them flowers anymore.”

Other times I didn’t quite know how to respond: When I asked her, “what are the only mammals that can fly?” she responded confidently, “Fairies.”

As I kissed her goodnight, she asked, “Papa, how do you make electricity?”

Usually by turning magnets really fast, I said. It’s electricity that pulls magnets together or pushes them apart.

“Could we try it tomorrow?”

I don’t know if your hippo magnet on the fridge is enough, I said – you would need big ones like on a windmill.

“Can we make electricity with a windmill?” she said.

When you are a little older, I said, I expect that you and I will make ourselves a windmill together.

"I love you, Papa."

Friday, 29 November 2013

Best of The Girl 2

Sunday, 11 January 2009

One recent night, my daughter proposed that we -- I am not making this up -- pretend to be continental landmasses and call each other on the phone.

"Hello, Africa? Are you there?" she said into her pinky finger. Yes, who is this? I said.

"This is India -- how are you doing today, Africa?" she said. I'm fine, I said -- a little ticklish from the elephants and zebras walking on me.

"I have hot weather today, and I have elephants too, and women who wear bindis!" she said. And so on.

She is just nine different kinds of awesome.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

My four-year-old, of course, always wants one more story, one more lullaby, a few more minutes before bed. I try to be reasonably strict, but Grandma down the hall is a grandma. So every night at bedtime, I talk with my daughter, read her a couple of books, sing a lullaby, tuck her in and walk away ... and whatever happens after that stays in Vegas.

Tonight, though, I surprised her halfway to Grandma's room, frozen in mid-tiptoe.

"I'm sorry Papa," she said contritely. "I couldn't resist." 

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Tonight my daughter asked me to play for a while before I put her to bed, and she made up stories for us to act out. She had me play the part of the spoon (just go with it, okay?) who hated frogs, and shooed Mr. Frog away.

Then (as she told the story), mosquitoes started to fly around and pester Spoon, who ran around trying to brush them all away. Then he remembered that frogs eat mosquitoes, apologized to Mr. Frog and invited him back.

Spoon was not bothered by mosquitoes anymore, and was never mean to Frog again, because he realized that we need frogs.

I wish more people understood what my four-year-old understands.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

To my eyes, our daughter's books are a haphazard pile on and in front of her bookshelves, but if I take one out I'm informed I'm messing up her system. Tonight she said she wanted a certain book before bed.

"Certainly -- which one would you like?" I asked.

"Look there," she said, gesturing to the pile. "It's the one that's in the wrong place."

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Recently I showed The Girl Sesame Street clips from the early 1970s, including one of a small child touching a goat's horns at a petting zoo. When I asked what the child was doing, she said, "She is patting the goat's antennae."

She doesn't know "horns," but she got the plural of "antenna" right.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Best of The Girl

If you read this blog regularly, you know my conversations with The Girl have grown ever more adult as she enters her tween years. The maturity of our lessons, though, inspired me to re-read moments from our lives when she was tiny. I've put them together to make, in the next few days, the Best of The Girl.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008
My four-year-old often has trouble getting to sleep these days, and pads downstairs once or twice before finally succumbing. I persuade her to return peacefully by telling her about the Sleep Fairy, who sprinkles fairy dust on children's eyelids and makes them heavy.

This only carries so much weight, though -- the other night she came down annoyed, and slowly announced, "The Sleep Fairy has disappointed me."
Friday, 5 September 2008

The other day my four-year-old asked me if she could have blueberry muffins tomorrow. Quickly passing the buck, I told her that her Oma (grandmother) would be minding her, and it was between her and Oma.

"Yaaay!" she shouted. "I get blueberry muffins tomorrow!" 

Saturday, 13 September 2008

The other day I was pulling into our car park with my daughter in back, and as is my bad habit, I unbuckled my belt before the car was stopped. From the back seat I heard a small voice say, "Hey! You put that seat belt back on right now, mister!"

Friday, 19 September 2008

Last night I came home to my four-year-old, who was still awake, and I consented to read her a bedtime story.

" I notice someone has been drawing in this book," I say. "Was that you?"

Of course not.

"Was it Teddy?" I asked.

She looked shocked. "No! Teddy is a good bear, and would not do that!"

"Well, who do you think it was?" I asked.

She slowly reached out to her toy cow and then quickly whirled it around to face her.

"Could it have been YOU, Moo cow?" she demanded accusingly.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Bad arguments

Every night The Girl and I go upstairs, light a candle and begin another lesson, and last night I quizzed her on what we covered in the past week. Can you name three different kinds of bad arguments? I asked.

“Like a Straw Man?” she said, and I nodded.

“Okay, a Straw Man is when you attack a dummy of the person’s argument, so you attack what you say they said, rather than what they said. Like, if you put words in their mouth that they didn’t say.”

Perfect, I said. Anything else?

“A home …. Daddy…home…” she faltered. A home? I asked.

“Noooo,” she said like a frustrated teenager. “You don’t understand; I can’t think of the proper name, but it sounds something like that.” It sounds like ‘Daddy Home?’ I asked, and then I realised – Ad Hominem.

“That’s it!” The Girl said with a chuckle. “Attacking the person rather than the argument. I knew it was something like that.”

Very good, I said. Anything else?

“A false dilemma,” she said. “You act like there are two choices, but there might be more.”

Good, I said. Tonight I’m going to tell you about another bad argument, perhaps the one you will hear most as a grownup: the Argument from Fear. She perked up and smiled, like a child about to hear a ghost story. The Argument from Fear, I said, is when people tell you to believe something, not because they have evidence that it’s true, but because you’re scared – ‘Believe we're right or something bad will happen to you.’

“That’s blackmail!” said The Girl, and I agreed, giving some examples from politics or religion. Those were cumbersome issues for a nine-year-old to wrestle with, though, so I turned to popular advertisements. Have you ever seen the adverts on the telly for soap? I asked. The ones with the talking germs?

 “Oh yes!” The Girl said. “They have little cartoons of germs, and tell you that germs are all over your body. And they are – but most of them are good! We’re made of germs!” she said.

Exactly, I said. I mean, keeping things somewhat clean is important, but there are gems everywhere, and we can’t and shouldn’t kill them all.

“Then why tell people that?” she asked.

To get you to buy what they're selling, I said, as The Girl looked indignant. If you can get people to feel scared of germs everywhere, you can get them to pay you money. But you haven’t said anything about whether you need to kill more germs than you do, or whether you’ve already killed too many, or whether your soap will do that, or whether some other soap would work better.

“So what do you do?” The Girl asked. “Can you stop being scared?”

Everyone feels scared sometimes, I said. But if you recognise a bad argument when you see it, I said, people can’t manipulate you as easily.

“What happens then?” she asked.

Then, I said, you might make them scared.