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A Little about a Lot. Or, Mami Doesn't Know Everything.

The nuggets of knowledge in my brain are random – from knowing too much about drainage swales to state adoption law loopholes to Robert's Rules of Order.

They were implanted during the 16 years I spent as a general assignment reporter in both news and features. It means I know a little about a lot. Excellent for cocktail party conversation and raising an inquisitive child.

It just never really hit me until recently that my job in parenting Maria requires knowledge in everything from botany to physics, all at the same moment. The questions are rapid fire. Sample one car ride:

M: "What is that tree?'' Me: "A weeping willow." M: "What are those yellow sticks in the ground?" Me: "They're to keep the electrical wires covered." M: "Why do they have to keep them covered?" Me: "Maybe so you don't get hurt or shocked by electricity." M: "And you could die if you get shocked?'' Me: "Yes, Maria, a person could die." M: "Could you have a second life if you die?'' Me: "Some people think so, but I don't know. Let's just not touch the wires, OK?"

In the newsroom, I had time to come up with an answer, make a few phone calls, check the library. (There were days before the Internet, you know.) Sometimes, I had a few minutes, sometimes a day, sometimes even months.

No such luxury now.

And so, my brain hurts.

I started keeping track of Maria's questions a few weeks ago. She asks a lot about God and exactly how he does his job. She's asked about the size of books, the how of making yogurt, why a fire truck is red, how her friend's mom got the baby seed in her belly, how she got out of my belly, why her little pink guitar has six strings.

Most of the time, I have an answer. Sometimes, I don't. I tell her we can look up the answer together. I have no idea why a guitar has six strings and let's just say I temporarily forgot exactly how baby seed gets into one's belly. Something about how when you grow up and get married and it's time for the seed to grow, it grows. Magic. (Ethics prevented me from willfully changing facts at work, a definite job requirement in parenting for which I am grateful.)

And again, my brain hurts. Hurts twice as much at times, because I attempt explanations in Spanish. And well, I have no idea how to say "weeping willow'' in Spanish.

And my heart hurts a little too.

I know the questions will get harder, and I know we may have to attempt to explain things to her that have no explanation: why her heart got broken, why a friend hurt her, why a loved one got ill.

When I think of future conversations, I realize these constant questions of hers are not just about immediate knowledge for her, but training for me. Reminders that I still only know a little about a lot. And, that there are some things for which there are no good, or right, answers.

That is a lesson for both of us.

In the meantime, anybody know why a guitar has six strings?


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