“How high is the sky? Bigger than 12 feet?”

I don’t like to lie….but I’m okay with making things up.  Especially when it comes to answering the rapid-fire questions of 4-year-old Mr. Ornery (he’ll correct me here – he’s technically 4 AND A HALF!).  This interrogation is most frequent in the car where I cannot possibly get away. His current favorite question is “how high is the sky?” “Is it IMG_3276higher than 12 feet?” (all size is now measured in comparison to the depth of the swimming pool where he would jump off the diving board into 12 feet of water. For example, “Is the big rubber ducky in the water bigger than 12 feet?”)

Back to the sky though….after numerous “I don’t know answers” I finally said “10,000 feet” and I’ve stuck to that pretty faithfully. And now, after a few weeks of lying to my innocent child, I finally decided to look it up. Technically, the “sky” going all the way to the edge of space is 250 miles (the distance between D.C. and NYC – now that’s fascinating!) which would be 1.3 million feet. So….I’m off by a few (ahem) decimal places. And since I prefer to feel “right” – we’ll go with the definition of “sky” between the ground and where the weather occurs (clouds, etc) which is 3 miles and about 15,000 feet (making me much closer to right than the first definition – and this is important in whose book??!?!). At least tomorrow I’ll have a better answer for Mr. Curiosity!

This weekend the question stream shifted a little to the power of God: “Is God bigger than 12 feet?” – yes.  “Can God pick up the Hulk?” – yes. As well as a string of queries about what God eats: “Can God eat a tree?” – yes. “Can God eat the ocean?” – yes. “Can God eat the whole earth?” – yes. And on….and on…. “Wait a minute….I don’t think God really eats anything….come to think of it.”

And I realize that one of the things Mr. Ornery is doing is processing his place in the world. How big is he? How old is he? How strong is he? If he puts on his Batman batmancostume, is he now stronger and more powerful than he was before? Is he bigger than 12 feet? Where does he fit into the pecking order of all these boys? It’s a challenge being the middle guy.

And it’s a challenge for me to remember to pay attention to him and his social and emotional needs (and not just his incredibly soft curly hair and impishly sweet smile). I have to remember not to snap at him to stop crying because the noise is bothering me while I try to address the offender (typically older brother, sometimes Little Guy). Not to shut down his line of questioning because I’m tired of making up answers. Not to forget to read bedtime stories since I’ve already done two sets in putting the other two to bed.

I have to remember that he really is only 4 years old (despite the fact that he usually runs with the 7 year-olds and seems quite mature). That 4-year-olds are not always in control and sometimes melt into tears, or throw toys in anger, or wet themselves (despite repetitive prompts to “go pee” based on tell-tale signals!). That 4-year-olds crave attention (“watch my cartwheel”) even if they can entertain themselves well for quite some time (while you sneak in evening treadmill runs). That 4-year-olds have figured out how to deflect consequences – “no, that’s not my candy wrapper”….”I didn’t do it, The Rascal did.” That 4-year-olds need to know they are loved even when they try to stand on their own two feet (and on the couch and the monkey bars).

Most of all, I have to remember to pause in the morning when the 4 (and a half)-year-old asks me to sit beside him for his morning cup of milk and put my arm around his shoulder (despite lunches to be made, homework to be done, diapers to be changed). I must remember that it is so important to take that time with him – for 4 is such a fragile age….. when you’re figuring out your place in the world.

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