Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zoe vs. Barbara Walters

Zoe is like Barbara Walters: When she asks questions, someone ends up in tears. Usually me.

Grown-ass men sobbing. When we return.

I am Zoe's usual victim interviewee. Her questions fall into one of the following three categories.

1. Questions with the Same Answer
Each day starts with these. Where are we going? School and work. Who's taking me to school? Daddy. Who's picking me up? Mommy. Who's putting me to bed? Three out of five weekdays the answer is Mommy. 
Same questions. Same answers. Still she asks
As I'm putting on makeup: What's that? Eyeliner. Can I have some? When you're older. Or, if I'm feeling all Teachable Moment: Eyeliner is one of the few Things That Cannot Be Shared, like a lollipop that's already been in your mouth. 
Because it's unhygienic. 
What's eugenics? 
. . . It's when a bad guy says that all the questions should have the same answer.
She thinks for a moment then says, "That's silly." Isn't it, though? 
At night on the way home (regarding a random person): Where is he going? Home. Why? Because everyone's going home now. Why? It's dinnertime. 

2. Questions with No Answer (or at least not one that satisfies)
At night on the way home (regarding a specific person): Where's he going? Home. 
Then when Specific Person walks up to a door: Why's he going there? I guess that's his home. Why? Because that's where he lives. 
Sometimes this leads to the third category (see below) but sometimes, just to be perverse, Zoe says:
"No, he doesn't." 
 "What do you mean, 'no, he doesn't'? 
"He doesn't live there."
"We just saw him go in."
"He doesn't live there."
At this point I sputter that we'll have to agree to disagree. How do you explain the obvious? Especially when you don't really care.

Jerry keeps pressing for a bathroom
break but is soundly ignored.

Another example:
She wedges one toy inside another toy and then needs help getting it out. On the edge of tears but gamely holding them back to underline just how well she is bearing up under the full scope of the tragedy, she comes to me for help. 
With some finagling I finally remove the toy. As I hand the consciously uncoupled items back to her, I say, "Now don't do that again." Zoe asks, "Why not?" What can be said to this that wasn't evident from all that preceded?

3. Questions That Lead to More Questions
One of Dante's Circles of Hell must have its circumference paved with the questions of preschoolers.
Let's say we're going on a car trip. . . .
Where are we going? Who's going to be there? When are we coming back? Can I take the largest most unwieldy toy with me, the one with multiple tiny parts that never stay on and will end up being left behind causing untold emotional anguish or, at minimum, regretful pining? Why not? Now that we're ready to go, and I said I wasn't hungry the twenty times you asked me before, I am now, in fact, hungry, so how about a grilled cheese sandwich? How come? Can I take a squeezable yogurt with me in Grandma's car? Why not? Is Grandma coming with us? Where are we going? (Return to start.)

Those who coveted the Play-doh in life, must separate
mounds of it into their constituent colors in death.

So far I've managed to dodge embarrassing questions, like why is that person standing within earshot fat? But she's come close.
One day she asked me "Why's that kid so short?" as we passed a man who happens to be a dwarf. 
(His size, by the way, had nothing to do with why she called him a kid. She often calls adults kids. Or boys and girls.) 
I don't think he heard. I'm always awkward around this particular dwarf because he's sort of a neighborhood fixture. He can be seen at Christmastime dressed as an elf. For the St. Patrick's Parade, he's a leprechaun. Sometimes, for no obvious reason, he's decked out in a top hat and tails.
The reason for my awkwardness is that before Zoe was born he and I lived in the same building, and every time I saw him he would reintroduce himself. Now that we are no longer living in that building, I'm even more doubtful he remembers me. 
So all this noise is running through my awkward brain when Zoe asks why he's short, but I just say, He was born that way. 
Because he's a dwarf. 
I immediately regret using that word, not for any political-correctness reason because I've kind of lost track of what's the proper term (midget? little person? height disadvantaged?), but because I'm afraid she'll now associate him with Snow White and her seven companions and so I'm way ahead of her when she asks, Where's his beard? (He has a mustache but he is bald.) 
He shaved it, I say. 
He was hot. 
This seems to satisfy her for the moment.

If You Were a Tree, What Kind of Tree Would You Be?
Barbara Walters was famously mocked for asking this question of Katharine Hepburn, even though Hepburn herself opened the door to Walters asking it. 
As a mother, I know how this feels. I often find myself asking questions I never expected to ask another living soul, like "Did you lick your shirt?" and "Why are you trying to put that toy in your butt?" I know something about context and being misunderstood and how if you make one mistake there's always a person standing just behind you who will never let you forget it. "Mommy made a mistake." (Statement, not question.) 
If Zoe asked me what kind of tree I was in the middle of the usual chaos, I'd be tempted to say the Giving Tree, from Shel Silverstein's eponymous book, y'know, the tree that gave and gave till nothing was left, not even a stump. Do you know what a martyr is, Zoe?

Go ahead and sit. If I could only provide shade,
but someone chopped me down.

Last night I asked Zoe what kind of tree she was and she said, "A leaf tree. No, an apple tree. No a bean tree. No, a big one...." Why did I ask?
Zoe: 61; Universe: 0


  1. Haha! Definitely an evil mastermind in training!

  2. Isn't she? Thanks for visiting (and agreeing)!

  3. This, once again, is brilliant. And so relatable. Dante's inferno indeed. I admire your ability to temporarily abandon the torturee position to step back and assume the impartialness necessary in order to categorize the questions. I love, love, love this. Will share on FB. :-) (p.s. This was one of my favourite parts: "but sometimes, just to be perverse, Zoe says: "No, he doesn't." )

  4. Thanks so much, Katia! Impartiality is necessary for sanity. Sometimes I even think I'm having an out-of-body experience!

  5. Lol! I nanny a two-year old and his favorite question is, "Where'd that come from"...about anything and everything we encounter during the day. I've learned to great creative with my answers!

  6. I think Zoe deserves more than 61 points for this one. I may have said this before, but you are in biiiiig trouble when that girl gets older!

  7. Haha. I know it!

  8. HA HA HA HA!! Crying with laughter...this is my life. Every.Single.Day.-Ashley

  9. It's just endless, isn't it? Why? Because it has no end. But why.....?