Friday, February 13, 2009

Grace and astrophysics

Motivated by last week's LOST episode, I borrowed The Little Prince from a friend and started reading it Thursday night with Grace.

I thought she might like a new book, and while I was unsure if she would sit still long enough to tolerate the formal writing style of a book translated from the French, we managed to get several pages read.

But she was much more interested in talking about things than passively listening to a story. As is her wont, she wanted to enter into it and make it her own. She wanted to personalize it and understand it from her perspective. "Don't tell me what you think is important," she might say. "Let me tell you what I think is important."

And so, when she heard that the Little Prince lived on a different planet--a very small planet, she told me about what she knew of Pluto. And we were off on a tangent of looping questions and difficult hypotheticals trying to bring the mysteries of the universe and the motion of the spheres into a space the size of the bedroom and our rocking green recliner. (It wasn't easy.)

She had trouble conceiving of a planet smaller than Pluto because, well, that was the smallest planet. She hadn't been taught about other stuff outside of that and therefore her knowledge ended there. To try and stretch that knowledge into something else, something more, seemed to be a challenge to her . . . and Grace doesn't like challenges. She wasn't angry about it, just wasn't willing to begin considering the possibility of MORE.

And that, in a nutshell, is where my difficulties with Grace begin and end.

When we get into one of our rows, it is usually because she is utterly convinced in the rightness of her problem--"My hose are uncomfortable!" "My shoes don't FEEL good!" When I try to break her out of that simple declarative, she seems it as a questioning of her basic truth of herself, as if I am questioning her view of the world (and, I guess, in a five-year-old's perspective, that is EXACTLY what I am doing). She, she digs in her uncomfortable shoes to the unyielding earth and refuses to consider that there might be other things smaller than Pluto. She has no knowledge of that, so why should she be challenged in the rightness of it?!


All of this sounds like a contentious disagreement, but this is all me after-the-fact, applying hypotheticals to her basic life premise. As I think I said before I spun off into psychological tangents, our discussion of planets and the size of Pluto versus the size of the Moon and the size of a basketball, tennis ball, and football were quite good natured and pleasantly fun. She was genuinely interested in talking about what she knew and I was happily trying to teach her some of what I know.

If I'm lucky . . . a bit of it sunk down in there.

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