When explaining things to Oliver, stuff comes out sounding dumb. But really it isn't. Usually what I say is the basic truth, with all of the exceptions and extenuating circumstances left out.
"Mom, are our neighbors nice?"
"I'm sure they are. Most people are nice when you get to know them."
"Do you like making dinner, Mom?"
"Yes. I like to try new things. Do you?"
"Yes. I like trying new things. Like new dessert."
"Dessert is good, isn't it?"
And the thing is, in trying to put things simply and positively for him, I realize that deep down that's how I feel. I really do feel that most people are nice when you get to know them. I really do like cooking dinner for my family, even though it gets to be a chore. I do like trying new things. It sounds silly for me to say, but he reminds me of things I used to believe but forgot.
Yesterday, he was driving me nuts with all of his questions of what is real and what isn't. He kept listing things and declaring whether or not he was afraid of them. I get tired of saying that things are/aren't real and you do/don't need to worry about them. After about the millionth time, I think anybody would get tired of that. But then sometimes he reminds me of what it must be like to be his age.
"Monsters are scary. Are you scared of monsters, Mom?"
This question reminded me that at one point, I was, indeed, scared of monsters. And that some things still scare me, rationally or irrationally.
"I used to be. But then I learned that monsters aren't real and that we are safe here."
After I said that, I remembered running as fast as I could up the basement steps in case something came out of the darkness to grab at my ankles. I remembered being scared that wolves would break down the doors to our house and eat me. I remembered thinking that snakes were waiting just off our front steps to bite me and kill me. I used to be just as scared as he was of things that sound just as stupid.
"That's good idea. I am not scared of monsters too, Mom."
When talking with other people, I spend a lot of time thinking about how best to articulate my point of view. Depending on the person, I worry about sounding stupid or simple. I worry that they'll take what I say and make a sweeping generalization from it if I don't add enough qualifiers and exceptions. But sometimes, the simple answer is best - dumb sounding or not.
"Monsters only scare you if you let them."