The Tao of the Toddler

A series in which I answer the inane questions your children ask, but with a side of existential dread

Photo: Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Q: Why are trees different?
A: Trees are different because of the evolution of plants, dating back to the dinosaurs. Trees were actually sporous plants, much like giant ferns, and they were purple as they had not yet developed chlorophyll. Eventually the taller plants began crowding out the big fern plants, and they choked the life out of them by blocking the sun. Now we have deciduous trees and coniferous trees — deciduous trees marking young growth, where there is a lot of space and less competition for sunlight. Once the conifer trees infiltrate, though, they grow taller and blot out the sun with their heavy boughs, signaling secondary growth forests. We can use this as a metaphor for the post-industrial death spiral of capitalism, wherein the gleaming towers blot out the sun to the masses below, creating a die-off of the anthropocene and collapsing the world’s economic system as the workers tasked with keeping industry alive die in the shadow of concentrated wealth.

Q: Why does the sky look blue?
A: The sky looks blue because of the way blue light from the sun is diffused through our air. But ask yourself this, child: To whom does the sky look blue? We know that many mammals in the animal kingdom are unable to see all the colors in the spectrum. In fact, our own human eyes have only recently been able to discern the color blue. As noted in The Odyssey by Homer, things we would call blue he referred to as other colors, such as the wine-colored sea. It is unclear exactly when blue became a part of the visible spectrum for humans, but it makes you wonder what else our eyes are missing. As research science is being drastically de-prioritized by our government, we may never know.

Q: Why are houses attached to the ground?
A: Houses are attached to the ground because once a house was not attached and a tornado came and blew the house away and it fell and it killed a witch’s sister and it led to a huge hullabaloo where an actress being fed fen-phen was forced to smear vaseline on her teeth and drag a furry convention to the ballroom scene only to find out she was tripping the entire time. Once that fever dream was over it was decided that in order to avoid indoctrinating children into cocaine-binge-fueled party culture, houses should stay attached.

Q: Can you talk when you die?
A: That depends on what you mean, dear child. People talk while dying all the time. They often speak their deepest regrets, painful remembrances of children they neglected and people they wish they had told “I love you.” Or their memories are all scrambled and they have no idea when or where they are or who they are talking to and it comes out like a misfiring algorithm, conflating times and places and people that never saw one another. Once you are dead your body can no longer speak, however, there are some that believe your spirit can communicate with others. There are also people who capitalize on the desperate need for loved ones to still be able to talk to the deceased. These people call themselves mediums. Many of them are charlatans who prey upon people who are grieving in order to make money. We often wish for a sign from our loved ones after death, but such a thing may also call to question every belief that has been dogmatically programmed into us. The question, then, should not be whether you can talk after you die, but should you?

If your toddler (or older child, or husband, or sulky teen or whatever) has questions about the universe that you don’t have time or the will to answer, email me at mccauley.alicia@gmail.com and I will answer them, correctly or otherwise.

Midwestern New Yorker. Dog Hugger. Bacon Eater. Bird Watcher.

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