I know everything, apparently

How do dolphins have sex? How do fireworks work? How come the fireworks echo like that? How do stingray tails sting? How are stingrays related to sharks? How do you know if you’re in love?

My one little word for 2019 is “listen,” but we are nine hours and fifteen minutes into the year – and let’s be clear that I was asleep for most of those hours – and I have already yelled (just a little). We are on vacation. I am sitting on the couch trying to write, listening to the gentle creak of the hammock behind me, the not-so-gentle rise and fall of the children’s voices as they talk their way through some version of tennis on the beach (raquets, a ball, and nothing else), the heavy footfalls on the stairs as the adults try to get ready for the day.

The sounds paint a lovely picture, and I am listening, but I have already been asked approximately 304 questions this morning. Can we go to that abandoned house you found? Can I take home a seashell? Why not? Can I use your phone to take pictures? Can I have more for breakfast? Can starfish swim? Can you read to me when you’re done writing? Can we go swimming? Can we go now?

The metallic thud and clank of the screen door warns me that I am about to be joined again. The boys know that I need some space when I’m writing, but somehow quiet space is hard to find in this tropical paradise. Our senses are alight with novelty, and experiences blossom around every corner. No one is getting quite enough sleep because every minute – even the quiet ones – is full of something.

What’s the name of this bug? What is cassava? What makes bioluminescence? Can we keep it in a jar? Why not? What are you writing? What time is it? What’s for lunch?

So, this one little word thing, this “listen”, this may be a challenge for me. I guess I already knew that. But now – literally as I am writing – the sounds have come together and, astonishingly, I have found the quiet in the centre of the noise. And what I hear behind the tennis negotiations, the breeze, the hammock and all of those questions, is security, admiration, love. There will come a day when these boys will know that I do not, in fact, know everything – or even all that much. There will come a day when they will think I know nothing at all, in fact. These questions show me what a central role I play in their lives right now. Right now, I know everything, apparently.

So here is my blessing for myself today: May I hold onto the revelation that questions are love in wrapped up in words during the 4,537 questions that are yet to be asked today. May I listen and may I hear. May I not lose my temper. (And may I forgive myself when, at question 4,538, I do.)

Why do the birds follow some people and not others? Why do stores close on holidays? Why do we have to go home? Are you done writing? Can you come play yet?

Yes, yes I can. I’ll be there in a minute, my loves.



22 thoughts on “I know everything, apparently

  1. I’ve often wanted to somehow record all the questions my own kids ask me in a day. You’ve captured just a snippet of those questions here and it’s glorious! Listen is a beautiful OLW. ❤️


  2. “Listen” might be one of the most powerful words and listening a mighty act in life. Breathe in and out, and listen, maybe you can reach 5,000 calmly. I hope your OLW allows you to celebrate and encourage the curiosity children show. Some of the questions asked may become seeds for writing. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You must be thrilled (although maybe at times exhausted) with the questions your children are asking. I always feel that questioning is one of the most important skills to encourage in children. In fact, I almost picked Question as my OLW. (I went with Becoming instead,). I do think listen will be a powerful word. I know I could be a much better listener. Good luck, and enjoy your vacation!


    1. Thrilled and exhausted is a perfect description of how I feel about their questions. Listening is something I do well sometimes, and simultaneously something I also really need to work on. I love the word “becoming” that you chose – so many possibilities!


  4. Listening when I want to be doing something else is always a challenge. My mind wanders too…squirrel…when I am trying to listen. Good luck!


  5. You do such a lovely job capturing this moment. You’ve managed to capture a slice and reveal your OLW all at once–well done! Listen is a great OLW and the foundation of communication and understanding. Enjoy your vacation and let me know what you find out about those stingrays!!


    1. As it turns out, stingrays are closely related to sharks (they are kind of like flattened sharks) and their stingers are really only dangerous if you grab or touch them – at least for the ones here in Cayman who have come to associate humans with food. Now, to commence listening.


  6. I’ve been known to tune out as a mother. My daughters often make fun of me for it, but in some ways, it’s how I save myself. I love that you are embracing this time with your children and all that comes with it. The questions! The noise! The interruptions! Listen is a great word, but not always easy to do with integrity. Good luck!


  7. Do you know what I love about reading your writing, Amanda? You’re real. I appreciate that. Thanks for your honesty every time you put words on the page.
    May the new year be a good year for you!


  8. I was going to comment on the quiet at the centre of the noise, but I see that someone beat me to it. I appreciate the mood of this slice, the slightly frenetic relaxation. I remember the questions. I passed those and lived in the “You know nothing” years. Now, I’m happily in a new phase, where I can ask my daughter for advice. “Would this be considered a micro aggression?” “Would my 23 and Me profile be different from my sister’s?” “Can you please explain that again?” Something to look forward to.


  9. Love so many things about this post. Want to echo those above who already mentioned the teen (and after) years during which you will be asked only a handful of questions – most of which will involve the car in some way. Enjoy these days when you are the authority on everything. This post put me in mind of an event that I experienced with my oldest daughter – then age 4. We were at a shopping mall 22 years ago and she saw a man walking toward us. She asked, “Who’s that man?” I answered, “I don’t know. He’s just a man at the mall.” This answer didn’t satisfy her but she asked no follow-up questions. It was only later that it dawned on me that I could answer that question with names every other time she’d asked it: Who were the people on TV? Who was that who came to visit? etc. It has also dawned on me – too late – that I never played enough with my daughters.


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