Thursday, July 7, 2011

Know it all

Once upon a time there was a woman who knew things. This woman had graduated from college with two degrees, then went on and got her master's degree. After graduate school she worked a series of jobs with progressively more responsibility. These jobs involved people contacting her for her advice and guidance. Sometimes they just needed some basic questions answered. But always these people went to her because they felt there was a good chance she would have the answer, and most of the time she did. And they appreciated that. And she developed a reputation for knowing things.

One day the woman had a baby girl. This little girl was a joy and it was evident early on that she was a spirited child and an independent thinker. For several years the girl took what her mother told her as fact because the mother was older, wiser and seemed to know what she was talking about. The woman foolishly assumed that this relationship would last at least until the tween years, maybe even until the teens if she was lucky. She was wrong on both accounts. When the girl was young the woman rarely knew what she was doing when it came to raising a child but she still had the answers to the girl's most important questions. Do you love me? Do I look pretty? Why is the sky blue? Can I have some ice cream? Then the woman had a second child, a son.

With the son the woman realized she had even less answers than she thought she did when it came to raising children. She foolishly had thought that the second time around she would know what she was doing, that like the professional world the learning curve started to flatten out as you went along. She was wrong. The son proved to be a leopard of completely different spots than the daughter, so the woman was starting from square one. When the son got old enough he started asking questions she had no clue about. Questions about the various trucks on the road, and sports, and blowing things up. Every day the woman realized she knew less and less than she thought she did.

At some point things changed and the little girl began to doubt her mother. To challenge her assertions, no matter how based in fact they might be. One day, when the girl was six, she told her mother that the District of Columbia was a part of Virginia. The mother could not convince the daughter that this wasn't the case. The woman's word was not good enough. Only when confronted with a map did the daughter concede that perhaps she was wrong.

Now the daughter is 8 and asks her mother lots of questions but rarely believes the answer. The woman is not sure why she even bothers to ask. Is she testing her? Or testing herself? Unfortunately these questions often times are about things the mother once knew, or should have known, and has now forgotten. Such as geography. Yesterday the girl wanted a summary of the plot of Homer's The Odyssey, and the woman had to google it because her memory is full of holes. The woman now spends time boning up on subjects she hasn't thought about for years just to stay a step ahead. And the daughter also asks questions that have a straightforward, unambiguous answer, like how many floors there are in the Macy's department store at the mall. And the girl tells the woman she doubts her answer, that she things she is wrong, so the mother must show her. The mother spends a lot of time proving herself. It's like she is starting school or her career all over again.

The woman who once thought she had a lot of answers now realizes perhaps she doesn't have many at all.

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