Bedtime always brings unexpected treasures. Not only is it the promise of sleep after what is always a too-busy day, but it’s also an extra long hug from my son or a whispered endearment from my daughter. In that twilight before the day ends for my children, I often find space to relish our time together. It’s a pause to take a mental snap shot of what I hold dear. However, bedtime is not always hugs and quiet; sometimes, the kids have another idea, using that time to remind me of their extraordinary ability to throw me a curve ball.
Tonight was one of those nights.
When I arrived home from work, G, my vivacious five-year-old, was waiting for me in her bed, curled up under her yellow comforter. She wore lime green summer pajama bottoms and a “birthday girl” pink t-shirt (she’s begun to plan her birthday, which is more than two months away, and the shirt provides inspiration). Her hair was damp from her bath, and she held a purple teddy bear named Violet in her arms.
“Cuddle with me, Mommy. Get under the covers with me,” she invited. It’s hard for me to turn her down; I am aware that she will one day not want to cuddle, so I grab these chances when she offers. I quickly changed from my work clothes and slid in the bed next to her, my arms around her body, her head under my chin.
We caught up on our days, and then G rolled over.
“Why are we here, Mommy?” she asked.
“What do you mean, honey?”
“Why are all of the people here? On Earth? Why are we alive?” she clarified.
When kids ask these not-so-easy to answer questions, remember two things:
1) They’re kids. You have to give them answers that are appropriate for kids.
2) You can, sometimes, ask to get back to them after you have thought about their question a bit (this is particularly helpful when they ask about reproduction or sex).
This time, though, I decided to just jump in.
“Oh, we’re here to love one another, be kind, and make the world a better place,” I replied.
“Who made us? Who created the people?”
“Well, there’s something called evolution. It means that we were around for a very long time, but as something different than the people we are today. As time passed, we changed as a result of the environment and how we lived.”
I paused. Why do kids always ask big questions like this at bedtime?
“How did the world start?” she continued. She didn’t wait between questions, shooting them out to me one after the other.
“There was a big explosion—it was called the big bang—and that’s how our planet began. Some people think it was God, not the big bang. I think they’re the same thing,” I explained.
“Mommy, there was a big bang and the big bang made God and God made us. I know this, Mommy,” she answered firmly.
“Uh-huh,” I said. Her confidence was impressive. People have been wrestling with questions about our origins and meaning of life for generations, and my kid has it all figured by age five.
“And, Mommy,” she said, stretching her arms up over her head. “After the big bang, God wasn’t a body, just eyes and a mouth and a nose. Eyes and a mouth and nose. And we were in God’s eye. That’s where we live. Right there. In the eye.”
“I love that, baby. That’s a great way to look at our world.” I gave her a kiss, slipping out of bed and tucking the comforter around her and Violet. “Now, get some sleep.”
“Good night, love,” I whispered, stepping out of G’s room. She didn’t answer; her eyes were closed and she was off to dreamland, leaving me to wonder about the big questions she’d ask me about tomorrow.