Children’s Questions Offer Deep Insight

Eight years ago, I wrote a column for the Abilene Reporter-News – a newspaper for which I still worked remotely as online content editor even though my family and I had moved from Abilene, TX to Little Rock, AR. (My blogging buddy Deana Nall used to write a wonderful, somewhat-similar column for her hometown newspaper, The Baytown Sun.) While I’m trying to take it easy on my carpal-tunnelled wrists and still try to keep up with New Wineskins editions and work on my book, I thought I’d re-post a few of mine, as she has occasionally done with some of hers. My column was called “Parenting on Purpose.”

(originally published November 15, 2002)

You never know what’s going to come out of the mouths of your children, but as a general rule you can bet it will come straight from their hearts.

Sometimes they have insights that go deeper than we can imagine.

When Laura was just 4, and romping at the play place of the fast food restaurant at the corner of the Mall of Abilene’s parking lot, she began to notice skin color. Her playmates looked as if they had been cast in Hollywood, they were of such diversity. Her concern was for two African-American children.

“Daddy,” she whispered hesitantly, then pointed. “Are those people OK?”

The question took me by surprise, and I didn’t know how to answer.

“I don’t know what you mean, sweetheart.”

“Are they … burnded?”

Well, I couldn’t help but smile. It wasn’t racial sensitivity she was expressing, but concern.

“No, hon, they’re just fine. God makes people of all different colors to make the world a prettier place.”

She thought a moment, and said brightly: “Like a rainbow?”

“Yes! Just like a rainbow,” I told her and gave her a hug.

Then she went off to romp with them some more. A Hispanic mommy nearby traded grins with me.

I know Laura’s not the first person to make that connection; the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition predates her by decades. But the fact that she made it at age 4 made Daddy proud.

I’m not as proud of my response to Matthew, who as a barely-more-than-babbling toddler one night asked the question, “Daddy, why is the moon?”

I started guessing.

“Do you mean, ‘why is the moon in the sky?’”

He shook his head.

“Why is it round?”

Nope.

“Why is it bright? Why is it white? Why did God make the moon?”

No, no, no.

Nothing I suggested was anything close to the question Matthew wanted to ask.

We got a little frustrated with each other, and I finally had to apologize for my ignorance and tell him I could not understand the question.

He looked up at me as if to say I surely must be the most stupid person ever to walk the earth and to look up at the moon — if in fact I ever had looked up at the moon.

It may have been our first intergenerational communication failure.

At the time, I chalked it up to the fact that he just lacked the words he needed to express the question.

Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t just one of those questions whose depth goes way, way beyond words.

Either way — sadly — Matthew does not remember it now. So I am left with the question.

I haven’t looked at the moon the same way since.

Keith Brenton is the father of Matthew, 9, and Laura, 6. He and his wife, Angi, are adoptive parents. As content/media editor, he helps maintain Reporter-News Online and works at home. You can reach him by e-mail at [no longer active], but he admits he doesn’t have all the answers.

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