Our car conversation the other day began with North Korea. The Girl brought it up. The Girl, The Boy, and I talked about Communism, civil war, American involvement in foreign affairs, the relative nature of good and bad, and family members pulled apart over imaginary dividing lines.
The children were particularly interested in imaginary dividing lines. How, they wondered, can you split a country in half? Do you draw a big line? Do you put up a big fence? What happens to families when the line splits down the middle of their houses? Do they immediately start hating each other? Can they still visit each other on holidays? They asked how people’s ideologies (no, they didn’t use that word, but they definitely expressed the idea) can be so drastically split that an imaginary line can turn family members and neighbors into enemies. Is the difference between North and South Korea like the difference between North and South Carolina? And why is the difference so different?
I answered as best I could. They seemed satisfied with my answers, but I certainly wasn’t. How do you explain things that are so unexplainable, perhaps even inexplicable?
But as it always does, our conversation turned.
Twenty questions was up next. The Boy had a vehicle in mind that definitely was not a truck but had wheels and was almost always green. We were stumped. “It’s a tank!” he giggled.
We meandered through various topics – friends and TV shows, hairstyles and birthday wish lists – until we saw a giant inflatable rat. The rat represented workers protesting a local business. At first I thought we were in for another deep conversation, but I was wrong.
Instead we launched into the differences (ah, there’s that concept again) between mice and rats. Most of their litany boiled down to mice are cute and small while rats are big and ugly.
The Boy finally brought all conversation to an end with a rousing rendition of a song he composed on the fly. It only had one line but myriad ways to utter the refrain, “I don’t want to talk about rats and mice any more!”
I’ve often wondered what is on their minds, and I’m learning that is more than I ever would have imagined.