If you recall the John Candy classic movie “Uncle Buck,” there is a scene in which Macauly Culkin’s Miles character rapid fires questions to his newly met uncle:
Miles has nothing on my son. Parker is 10. If there were a book entitled, “Every Question You Could Ever Conceivably Ask,” he would have more questions than that.
- He can ask questions that are fairly straightforward. (“Dad, how many teams have won the Super Bowl?”)
- He can ask questions that show a fascination with nature that eludes many children, much less adults. (“Dad, how many different types of lichens can live on a single tree?”)
- He can ask questions that are philosophical. (“Dad, do you think grass thinks?”)
- He can ask questions that make you wonder what in the world goes on inside of that head. (“Dad, what would happen if we had a fire in the fireplace, and a moose came in the house and jumped on the fire?”)
Don’t get me wrong. I love the questions. I love seeing that little mind in constant motion, processing the world around him and trying to figure out all of the mysteries of the universe.
But there was a simpler time for dads, when we could answer any question we wanted. Fans of the classic comic strip “Calvin & Hobbes” will remember that Calvin’s dad often answered questions in the most fantastic ways possible. For example, in one classic strip, Calvin and his dad have this conversation:
I started off answering like Calvin’s dad. I certainly had the book. He would ask me why geese flew in a V-shaped pattern, and I could state, quite confidently, that “geese have a natural magnetism at their wing tips. When the first goose starts flying, all the other geese have to connect at the wing-tips to stay in line, as their air speed is so great their eyes water too much for them to see during flight, and the only way to stay together as a flock is to magnetically lock.”
But then a terrible, terrible thing happened. My son learned to use Google. That boy can tear up some Google searches, finding any number of interesting questions in a search history. But it also means he uses that to vet the answers to the questions he has asked while confined, Google-free, in the car, at the movies, etc. And the last thing a father needs is for his son to find out that his old man doesn’t, in fact, know every piece of knowledge on the planet. At least not when he’s 10. That can wait until he’s 15 or 16, and he can determine I know absolutely nothing at all.
This point was driven home the other day when we were in the car. We had this conversation:
PARKER: Dad, what’s the fastest car?
ME: (stalling for time) Well, that depends. Do you mean top speed or acceleration?
PARKER: (not allowing for a stall) Top speed.
ME: It’s, um…
PARKER: It’s what?
ME: Ferrari. I’d say a Ferrari.
PARKER: How fast does it go?
ME: Probably over 200 mph. Hey, look – horses!
PARKER: What’s the fastest horse?
So I know it only a matter of time until he Googles “fastest car in the world.” And he will find out that in 1987, the Ferrari was the fastest car in the world, topping out at 201 mph. He will at first think his dad is brilliant and then will do some math and realize his old man’s data bank is more than 25 years outdated. Turns out the fastest car these days is a Bugatti (which I thought was a disease), and it goes more than 260 mph.
I’ve got to figure out a way to get ahead of Google and stave off the inevitable realization that I do not, in fact, know everything. First step: Google “What is the fastest horse.”
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.