Where's the ka-boom?

There is usually at least a small ka-boom when someone asks a question that should have a simple answer that actually requires discussion.

Like a couple of days ago, Js was out helping feed. He brought back a stack of empty buckets and waited in the doorway.

"Do the girls in the shark pen get a bump?" Now, I knew that 'the girls' meant 'the mares' in the 'shark pen' - is what we call the mare pasture because of the daily feeding frenzy.

'a bump' is a "bump bucket" ... that is, when I pasture feed (set feeders out in the pasture with loose horses) I fill five buckets for four horses. That way, when the dominate horse 'bumps' the others down the line, the last horse still gets to eat.

The only problem is that kind of question makes my brain implode.

Because it's not a simple "yes" or "no" kind of situation. Because: two of the mares share a bucket, so "yes" there *is* a bump, but .... he didn't ask the right question. What he meant to ask was: "How many buckets did he need to carry out there?"

If I had answered his original question: "do they get a bump?" "YES" (because there is a bump available) he would have filled and carried five buckets for four mares, which normally would be right - but in that particular case, with the two mares sharing, it would have set out two bumps instead of just one - which is not a disaster, but it is wasteful.

If I had twisted my mind around what I thought he needed to know and said "NO" - what if I had misunderstood what it was he meant to ask and there was another meaning .... and so I took a deep breath ... "What you mean is, 'how many buckets do you need to carry out there?'."

He stared at me for a moment and then nodded. problem solved.

Our little exchange stayed on my mind because it struck me I've seen that conversation gone over in writers groups - how important it is to say what you mean and how hard it can be to get exactly the right thing down on paper. Or how much fun it can be to ask one question and answer another... yes, I'm evil that way. ;)

- and so today, my son was with me, waiting in the truck while I fueled up and we had parked beside a piece of (very odd looking) heavy machine.

"What is that?" he asked.

I stared at it blankly ... and finally realized it was a "Traffix Device". It said so right on the big ugly butt of the thing. Traffix device and Traffixdevice.com

And I told him so, in a confident tone that implied I knew what I was talking about. ... "It's a Traffic Device."

But having had to put up with me for his entire life thus far, he wasn't fooled, but he smoothed it over. "What's it for?" he asked in an even tone.
I shrugged. "No idea."

He blinked at me and stared in the way that kids do when they know they can't say to their parents "that was stupid".

I just shrugged again. "I guess you asked the wrong question, then."

...but the funnest part of it all was just a couple of hours later, he turned it back on me when I was the one to ask the wrong, inane question. We had a laugh over it, but (and this is probably a whole 'nuther post) the best part for me was knowing feeling that - boy-childs do (sometimes) listen to their mom's, but more than that, that something had connected inside him and grown him a little bit and given him a little sharper focus on this tough world we live in.


Tricia said...

You caused me think of and look up this quote:
“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” - Richard M. Nixon

I've always loved the quote because it has happened to me too many times. Sigh. Kudos for getting it when your son speaks.

K.M. Saint James said...

I love this post. I find myself rephrasing questions a half dozen times before actually asking b/c I want to get the right answer.

Before I wrote, seriously, I would just blurt out the first part of what I needed to know then need to add two, maybe three more questions to the mix in order to finally get an answer.

Plus side of being a writer -- we get to the point faster. Downside, I have so much less patience for folks who stumble around an issue for days before getting the words out.

And hey, isn't it nice when they do actually hear what you say? I mean, what you 'REALLY' say?

Have a great writing day.