My son is now a little bike riding nut. He pedaled himself around the block today. He's still slow enough, thankfully, that I can walk behind him at a sometimes fairly brisk pace and other times a downright stroll. He gets stuck on uneven concrete. A little push sets him on his way again. As we made our way up one street, Logan stopped pedaling so he could look over his shoulder at me without falling over. "Remember when I got this bike?" he asked. I did, and I told him so. "When Santa gave it to me, I couldn't even pedal. Now I can. Now I'm using it properly." I managed not to laugh loudly at his statement.
He was quiet as he focused on pedaling again. Once he hit his stride he said, perhaps more to himself than me, "I bet Santa is proud of me."
I almost replied "I am, sweetheart, I am."
Then later I stopped laughing. Look, I have no useful aptitude for math. I was a good math student, actually, right up until they introduced multiplication tables. It went downhill from there. I knew, what with my rotten head for numbers if nothing else, that there would come a day when my children would ask me a question that I wouldn't be able to answer.
That said, I didn't expect to be stumped by a three year old.
We ate dinner outside tonight. Meg did her usual "one for me, one for the dog" meal routine. (Isn't self-feeding grand! Tasha thinks it is.) Logan did his normal "talk so much who has time to eat" And Bruce and I did our best to reply to Logan and keep Megan from eating the bits of food the dog failed to pull from her extended fist. In between whatever various things that popped into his head, Logan threw out the big stumper.
"What does symbiosis mean?" His brow furrowed in that way it does when he's deeply focused and endlessly curious.
I stopped chewing. It was a word I knew I should know. I had this fleeting blurred memory of my freshman year Biology teacher clip-clopping around the room in her circa 1960s shoes as she droned on about symbiotic something or other. Bruce started to do that funny little "ahh, well" dance I remember adults doing when they didn't know what to say. He reached for something. Some answer.
He started to head for the definition of osmosis. "No, that's not it, is it?" he asked me.
I grinned. "Nope." I decided not fluster them both by fleshing out the whole osmosis thing, which I was relieved to realize I could have answered had it been the question. At least I did remember something.
Bruce gave Logan that honest adult face - the one you get frustrated with sometimes when you're a kid. You don't want honest, you want answer. "I don't know," Bruce said, "We'll go in and look it up when we're done eating. Ok?"
"Logan?" I started, wondering if I wanted to know. "Where did you hear the word? Do you remember how it was used?"
He went back to his dinner plate, mushing around what he didn't feel like eating, "Stanley said it," he finally replied. Which confirmed that it was in biology class that I'd heard the word. Yes, of course, it must have to do with animals if he'd seen it on Stanley earlier in the day.
As Logan settled in for his bath I pulled out the book Megan had given him for his birthday - Stanley's Great Big Book of Everything. We found a definition for symbiants there. I read it to him. I found the page about the Oxpecker bird that lives on big mammals like elephants and eats the bugs off the mammals back. I explained how sometimes two very different creatures could live together and help each other. He stared at me.
Apparently I had just defined symbiant for him, but not symbiosis. He asked me again. I defined again. Then he grinned. His eyes twinkled. And he asked me yet again.
That little bugger.