“Daddy,” my four-year-old asked me, “should I take The Slutty Path?”
Its been three years since my Perfect Unicorn Princess asked me this little gem at random, and I still remember the feeling of two full ounces of Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel spraying out my nose when it happened (and thinking the wine tasted the same coming out as it did going in).
As most of you who read my posts know, I am constantly fascinated by the often hilarious and sometimes profound things that come out of my little girls’ mouths. It’s not a new phenomenon: Kids have been “saying the darndest things” for as long as…well…for as long as there have been kids. So what’s fascinating really is why do they say these things?
There is a part of me that desperately wants to believe that my daughter stood on the right hand of God before she was born and that her fresh, new soul is still so unpolluted that she can channel wisdom from her holy pre-existence. But my rational side, forged by too many years of gravely disappointing behavior by my fellow higher mammals, has a much more reasonable explanation for all of this. Young brains are a Big Gulp of newly-forming synaptic connections, each desperately trying to make sense of an overload of new information. Much like a college freshman taking his first bong hit just one week removed from his parent’s oversight, this Niagra Falls of data collides in random patterns, with funny and sometimes profound results.
So that’s how I eventually chalked up this bombshell from my Baby Gleaming LoveLight of Wonder. “Slutty” was simply a derivative of “Sloody,” one of the names of her nearly infinite posse of imaginary friends (“There’s Sloody, Sleeda, Sleedee and of course, Sloodoo”). The “Path” comes from Dora The Explorer, one of her favorite TV shows at the time, in which our hero was often faced with the daunting task of choosing the left path or the right path.
Occam’s Razor. Badda bing badda boom.
Nearly four years later, the questions are no less random nor intense. In the car last week, Ella asked, “Daddy, what’s a soul?” I have come to understand through years of these weapons-grade inquiries that you’ve got only a handful of seconds to reply with a coherent answer. A good rule of thumb is one second for every year the kid has been alive. So I had seven seconds to define the undefinable before her mind wandered off to whether brooms are made out of recycled Barbie hair (another actual question).
“Well, honey, many people believe the soul is the thing that makes you, you. The feelings in your heart, the thoughts that you think.”
“Is it like a Chicken Nugget?”
Stay with me now: This is not a non-sequitur. Whatever this thing is that’s going on behind these questions is just happening in spades here.
“No, honey, it’s not like a Chicken Nugget. But if your body was a Chicken Nugget, then your soul is like the dipping sauce you choose.”
Here’s the thing. I have never been able to buy the whole Sky Faerie Theory. I lose patience sometimes and yell at my kids. I don’t need a God who does the same. I’m kinda weak sauce when it comes to balancing my monthly budget. The last thing I want is a God that constantly needs money. So it seems to me that the strongest connection to The Great Whatever a person can have is the straight line to infinity that’s created by our children. I am the very deliberate product of thousands of acts of procreation stretching millennia before me, and my children are my path to genetic continuity for potentially countless generations to come. If that’s not the very essence of immortality, what is?
And yet. And yet…
I recall the time my heart raced when Ella pointed out a few years back that “I loved daddy the time before I was alive now.” Or how she told my wife the night my Great Uncle passed away that an old man sat on her pillow that night and said goodbye to her. It’s not always about the Chicken Nuggets. Sometimes it’s about the dipping sauce.
So God and I struck a deal. He/She/It will continue to reveal Him/Her/Itself to me as long as I continue to look. A handful of decades into this search, the best I’ve got is that there’s this thing that’s greater than me. I don’t know how to explain it. I just know it is there.
And I’m sure of it now because I am a father.
Ella: “Daddy, should I take The Slutty Path?”
Me: “Most people do at some point, honey, but it rarely takes you where you want to go.”