Shrinking Horizons

'Why,' asks my 8-year-old, 'does Monday come before Tuesday?'
'Who has the longest toes in the world?'
'Does anyone in the world have no coins, only banknotes?'

My son dislikes silence. He'll fill any gap in the din of family life with a question and these questions bother me; not because I don't know the answer, but because I don't care.

It's not that I don't have an enquiring mind. I wonder why facial moles sprout bristles, why my cakes never rise, why the Vicar hates spinach and why Uggs became fashionable. I ponder things of consequence, you see, and my son's unthinking enquiries are a frivolous interruption.

But at night sometimes, when the incessant voice is stilled, I ponder the mind of an 8-year-old. A mind in which men caper on toes like Savaloys or wait helplessly beside slot machines with wallets burdened with banknotes. I require beer or unconsciousness to achieve such surrealism and, in those night hours, I wish I'd tried to share more in his liberated world view.

And, amid the peace of my pillows, it strikes me that his mind delves deeper than my own. He probes science: 'Am I blood-related to myself?'; economics: 'What would you rather have - £100 or £1m?' and ethics: 'Would you rather eat a pudding or for me to be dead?'

When these sleepy insights hit me, I conclude that I have a son of misunderstood brilliance. I resolve, in future, to engage with his questions, instead of grunting replies without listening. I pledge to celebrate his inquisitiveness and learn what the infant mind has to teach me.

But, come morning, the merciless voice resumes while I'm busy on Twitter: 'Mum, have you ever been cremated?' And my good intentions flee for, by day, the infant mind is merely bothersome babble when I am wrestling far greater cosmic queries - chief among them, what day does the milkman next come?

Have any of you, by the way, been cremated?


  1. Do you know, I haven't ever been cremated, actually. Is it something you can do on a spa day? Is there a massage-pedicure-cremation package you can buy? I'd like to try it.

    That pudding/child's death dilemma is a tough one.

  2. I have never been cremated. I sometimes think I might like to try it though.

    It's nice that your son thinks to ask you these questions, rather than going straight to Google. High praise indeed ;-)

    1. I often look as though I've been cremated. And, after mediating bathtime brawls between my children, I sometimes feel as though I have. But I too have yet to try it properly.

  3. I haven't been cremated, but I have subjected a few cakes and a few fish fingers to a similar fate. Does that count?

  4. I have had some serious sunburns in my time. Pale pale pale of skin and living in sunny Southern Spain. An inquiring mind might ask WHY?

    Bibsey's questions mostly revolve around what things animals eat... but I feel there is a great reservoir of questions dammed up in her mind just waiting to be unleashed once she gets a handle on how to express them.

    1. The next stage is when they start asking about how said animals excrete what they eat.

  5. I've got this thing about not even wanting to be cremated when I'm dead, so I'll take a rain check please. Why's it called that? Shame we're always so distracted 'coz they'll be twenty before we know it and there'll be the grunting phase inbetween when we beg them to talk to us at all! Get it all on video I say (if it's still called video nowadays, because I really don't know) so you can replay it when they're teenagers and remember when they spoke to you at all!

  6. I suppose I could read this blog and wistfully remember...

  7. I haven't been cremated but will be when I pass. My kids have instructions to put me in a cardboard box, and with me in hand, canoe, portage, canoe to my favourite spot, and throw my ashes to the wind. They will not have a funeral but a party to celebrate the life I had!

    I think it is wonderful your son asks questions, whether they important or not, he is chatting to you which is wonderful.

    1. It is. And that's what I realise at night. By day, when they're in full flood, it's easy to forget how wonderful it is. As for important - well, as I say, my questions are far ore trivial than his.

  8. Hmmm so that's an 8yo. At 4yso I'm still getting: Mummy why are going in this room? Mummy why are you opening the fridge? Mummy why are you wearing your black trousers? I would relish a few philosophical financial or moral dilemmas. For five minutes anyway.

  9. Here are some more questions for you to ponder, fresh from the mind of a five year old:

    Do wasps eat cheese OR people? (if you have a fragile mind, like me, the very thought of it can make you housebound)
    Is God orange? (one for the vicar)
    Does the moon have a mummy and daddy?

    And NOW to answer one of your child's questions. It depends on the pudding. x

  10. Very wise reply. Obviously God's not otange. He's blue. Isn't he?

  11. Did you ever get to the bottom of the Uggs question? I've been wondering the same thing...

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  13. Would you rather eat a pudding or for me to be dead?
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