Talking About the World

My daughter calls it “Talking about the world.”

Daddy, can we talk about the world?

This means she wants me to pick something she doesn’t know about and explain it to her. And she doesn’t want kid things. She wants adult things. It started when I needed to explain how you catch Covid.

I surprised myself with my knowledge. Explaining things to a 6-year-old really proves your competency level. You have to distill shit down to its essence and then be able to field very unexpected questions.

Why can’t it jump farther than six feet?
How is sickness alive?!
How come some people get hurt by it and others don’t?

In that same car ride, she asked about the construction workers we passed. So we talked about them.

I’ve talked with her about taxes. The Earth’s crust. Divorce. Socks. Life before computers. Slavery. Art class. And snooze alarms.

Yesterday we went out into the rain and looked at clogged sewers and leaks in irrigation hoses. (It started with splashing in puddles; only little splashes since she had on sparkly blue cowboy boots. Then we talked about how the puddles formed and we were off to the races.)

In grad school, I learned that Learning is the way we play and have fun, especially as adults. Piles of research support this. Contrary to what our teenagers tell us, our dopamine actually goes up when we study. We get physical, measurable pleasure from the act of learning.

Another thing I learned (yay!), this time in Lit class is that Teaching is the final stage of Learning. (I think it was Plato that came up with that one.)

So there it is. Such an easy way for a 6-year-old and a 48-year-old to get a fix of joy: walking around the block and talking about the world. Stopping to stare at sewer grates and leaf piles in the road, we let our brains work things out.

We both kicked at a pile of leaves that had built up around a drain.

She spoke first.

Leafs and drains are not friends, she said.

Not all the time, I said. But if it weren’t for drains, leaves wouldn’t get to ‘water-slide’ down the gutters.

I pointed up the hill to the leafless tree on the side of the road.

She followed my finger up the hill and then followed the little gutter river down to her feet.

I could see her dopamine rising.

And, from the smiles of the people walking by (and the compliments of the cowboy boots!), it seemed like our little conversation was making a lot of other people happy too.

I’m hoping it does the same for you. 🙂