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Monday, December 28, 2009

"I don't know"

WARNING!!! This post involves judging of a parent by a non-parent. It also involves judging of a stranger without knowing all the details. It also involves pandas.

What's wrong with saying "I don't know"? Or, even better, "I don't know but let's find out together"?

(Note to self: in 2010, learn some punctuation rules)

So last night, we were at the National Zoo in D.C. for "Zoo Lights" which is their annual wintery "open the zoo after hours and charge admission to walk around and see a few lights even though most of the animals are sleeping or in for the evening" festivity. One of the few habitats open was the panda house.

A curious little boy-child stood nearby as we looked in on Tai Shan, the 4yo panda born at the zoo. His father (assuming) told him that this was the mommy bear and that the way he knew this was that "she" was smaller than the other two bears they had seen. I did not say anything since we all know I'm such a non-intrusive sort, but managed somehow not to punch the guy in the face as he misinformed his son.

When what to my wondering eye did appear but a very welcome sight - a zoo volunteer! The lady began telling the story of baby man-bear Tai Shan. The kid next to us proclaimed loudly "no, that's the mommy bear, my dad said so!".

(Seriously, the punctuation. It's embarassing.)

Yep, well, your daddy "educated" you incorrectly, small child. Why not tell the kid he wasn't sure which bear that was but let's ask someone and find out! Or let's look it up later! Make a project out of it, spend 5 minutes with the kid finding a volunteer or doing a search on Google when you get home.

As a non-parent, can some out there help me understand? Are parents really expected to be all-knowing beings? Such a lot of pressure that must be. It seems to me the more valuable lesson would be in admitting that nobody knows everything but that it's worthwhile to take the time to find the answer. These small "harmless" fibs to satisfy the child's curiosity seem designed only to suit the laziness convenience of the adult.

Anyways, I'm rambling. When I started this post, I thought it would end up a lot more coherent. But then, I usually think that. And we all know how that turns out...


WeeSally said...

Let the real parents rain down on me with fire and Brimstone, but although I am childless, I raised my little brother, and I have a bajillion nephews under 10.

The quick answer is YES! Childrens will expect you to know the answer to everything, however, how everyone deals with it is a different issue.

No we don't know everything and yes we should offer to find out later, or show our fallible sides, some parents are too proud to do that.
As you can see, also a bugbear of mine XD

Jessica said...

My 4 year old is forever asking me questions about everything. Trust me it gets old. Very very old. When you have a little miniature person nagging at you about everything they see, hear or do, then yeah, occasionally you are going to tell them whatever just to get them to SHUT THE HELL UP! In my eyes it is pretty harmless what the father said to his son. Maybe he didn't know any better and just assumed it was a girl. We are all guilty of that from time to time. Admittedly though, I can tell my daughter when I don't know something. She is such a spazz she is usually right on to her next question, not even caring that I didn't know the answer to the last.

And yeah, the punctuation thing... punctuation and quotation marks confuse the hell out of me, too. Does it go inside or outside? If I am quoting a question do I put a question mark in the quotes and a period outside? Think it's time for me to brush up on my high school grammar as well! LOL

Good post! I am curious to see what other moms will say about it!

Brenda Susan said...

I recall those days of endless questions & yes, the Dad should have said he did not know, but kids really dislike that answer & can be relentless in the constant barrage of questions.
I'm convinced that's why parents tell so many stories about tooth fairies & santa etc. It shuts them up! :0

soulbrush said...

as a teacher for many years, i can categorically say 'it's OKAY to tell a child you don't know, and to suggest that you both go and find out -even together'- kids hate finding out you were lying, they would rather hear the truth every single time!

kys said...

Yes! Kids expect parents to know everything. But my kids have learned that I know next to nothing. Their dad, however, is a fountain of knowledge. (Worthless and useful)

Melissa B. said...

I have the were in DC, where everyone feels the need to be a big, fat know-it-all. He didn't want to lose face...not with his son, not with the crowd around him, not with himself. I've worked with a lot of beig jerk-faces like this throughout the years...DC has a plethora of guys like this!

Mama Zen said...

"I don't know, but I bet we can find out."

That was one of my favorite lines when I was a teacher, and now it's my favorite as a parent.

That corgi :) said...

sounds like a fun place to go and see the lights; that is a cool zoo and I remember where that panda exhibit is

anyway, that being said, I think the dad should have said he wasn't sure and try to find out the truth for the kid. I think if there are more events over the course of time and the kid gets older, he won't know if his father is to be trusted or not when it comes to other harder questions the kid might have if the dad will give him the correct answer or not, like questions about sex, etc. they expect us to know everything but sometimes its nice to reinforce that moms/dads need to continue learning too. (hope this makes sense)


Eternal Lizdom said...

Maybe the dad really did think that was the female and really did think he was teaching his son something that someone had told him...

blognut said...

Totally agree!!!

In fact, I am so used to saying, "I don't know!" that I now offer it up the very second one of my children opens his/her mouth to speak.

And now? They are convinced that I know nothing, but this is somehow easier for me to handle.

The Brown Recluse said...

I remember a zoo trip where a young couple were "educating" their young son about a turkey, which was actually a peacock. I just made some mention of peacocks as I walked past them.
That punctuation can get tricky.

2cats said...

The dad probably did not know. He probably was guessing, just like so many of us do.
Punctuation is tricky for me. Like when do you use a; or a ,?
Is it's or its correct?
I don't know. I guess I better buy a book or something.

C. Beth said...

I think "I don't know" is a fantastic answer. But it's also very much a NOT SATISFACTORY answer to an almost-4-year-old.

There's value in the words "maybe" and "probably." ("Maybe that's the mommy bear!") And also value in "Oops, Mommy was wrong!"

Shirley said...

I think half the fun is finding the answer together. It shows the kids that parents aren't perfect, and also that if you don't know the answer, there are ways to find things out. And if I'm wrong, you can bet your last donut I'll admit it.