Sunday, December 2, 2012

What go in compost?

"What go in compost?" Bug asked me last night. On our recent visit to Tucson, there was much discussion of compost, as his Aunt Mimi had just started composting.

"Scraps from food you would otherwise throw in the trash," I said.

Little Bug lacks the vocabulary to out and out correct me. "What go in compost?' he asked again.

"Egg shells, coffee grounds, vegetable peels," I tried.

"What go in compost?"

I can't imagine parenting before the age of the instantly accessible YouTube "how-to" video. Bug spent much of the trip studying one on how to make a water fountain in your backyard.

"Do you want to find a how-to video on compost?" I ask.

Score. "La!" he says with great enthusiasm.

Sure enough, I have forgotten the brown stuff, the straw and dead leaves that compose the majority of a good compost. After we watch a while, he nods as they add the food scraps to the leaves. "That the trash," he points out, gently pointing out to me of the inadequacy of my answer.

It is humbling, this raising of a child. He reminds me, as all children remind their parents, of the insufficiency of what I know, and how quickly his curiosity can outstrip my map of the world.

We've been listening to The Nutcracker, as we did last year, in the vain hope that familiarity with the music will keep him engaged and in his seat next week when we go see his cousin dance in it. But as music has replaced trucks in his repertoire of obsessions, his interest in it has changed this year.

"What that?" he asks, pointing to his ear, asking what he is hearing.

"Those are the violins," I say, feeling mildly virtuous that I know the answer.

"What that?"

"Um, clarinets?" I'm on shaky ground. I'm not sure I have the ear for this.

"That tuba?" he asks. He loves tubas.

"Hmm, I think trombone? Maybe we should watch an orchestra play it on YouTube?"

"Laa!" Great enthusiasm. We learn that for some reason, it is mainly Japanese and Korean orchestras in the corner of YouTube that we find. Also that there appear to be no tubas in Tchaikovsky's score. Either that, or not in these particular orchestras. No matter. We begin a wild chase through Internet images of oboes and bassoons.

"What that?" he challenges Mama Jennifer when she comes over, pointing to a strange drawing we have found.

"An oboe?"

"Old Russian bassoon!!" he announces triumphantly. Show off.

 I still know a little more than he does about a few things, which is reassuring. His Aunt Ana and Michi gave him children's hand bells as a gift, and I line them up in a scale. He picks them up one by one. "What that sound called?"

"It's a C." I can still read better than he can.

I pick each one up and try to sing the note back. He follows suit. I feel like I'm winning, like I've taught him something, though I'm not sure what.

I remember surprisingly far back in my own early childhood, to almost his age. I remember something about this hunger for words and knowledge of things. He isn't at the "why" stage yet, but I remember how I loved that questioning of my parents, how satisfying it was that why questions had answers, and the world could be put in order. Later I learned that it couldn't, and that was tremendously disappointing.

Maybe music questions will keep him busy for a while. He has a lot of instruments, which he loves, so there's a coordination piece and a knowledge piece to keep him occupied. There's also clearly an emotion piece--he walks around singing happy tunes of his own invention, but if we ask him to identify what a piece of music makes him feel, he can say happy or sad or scared. Or maybe soon we'll be on to dinosaurs, and learning all their names. I do admit to being glad we're done with trucks, which were boring me silly, although I tried not to let on as he proudly named every construction vehicle on a site.

But I love his sturdy self-confidence that he can learn everything important about a subject, and when I'm not slightly annoyed, I am grateful for our access to Internet information streams that let him extend his questions beyond what we know.

Some things, though, you can't learn on the Web. The other night he was hanging on Jennifer's leg, and announced: "I love Mama Jennifer." He looked over at me, and added sweetly, "I love Mama Laura, too." Then he patted himself on his tummy. "And I love myself."

Oh Bug, I think, as I try not to let on that I've just teared up. I don't know where you came from, but I am so happy that you have that gift, that right now at least, so many things are working right for you.