'What bears eat, Mama?'
The question comes from Oli and seems to be completely unrelated to the train track we are building.
'Fish' I say, and then thinking of Winnie the Pooh, I add '...and honey.'
The next question comes in casually, 'Bears eat peoples?' He uses the kind of tone that says, 'not scared, just curious.'
'No, fish and honey' I reassure him, but perhaps a more honest answer might be 'sometimes'.
Oli and I must have danced through this little dialogue dozens of times. I wonder whether he just likes the familiarity of knowing the answer. Because, when you're two, there's a frustrating amount that you just don't know, after all, there's so much language that just doesn't quite make sense. Even for Max, at the mature age of nearly-five, there are words I'm sure I use every day that he'll suddenly ask me the meaning of. Today it was 'throbbing' and 'skinny'. No wonder children get frustrated. Wouldn't you? It must be like being surrounded by people throwing in words like spissitude and temulent* to your everyday conversation.
At the moment Max is obsessed with the sinking of the Titanic. As well as drawing my attention to the fact that he pronounces 'sink' and 'think' in the same way, (Do you sink it sunk...), it has also brought a lot of technical language into our home; the nature of watertight chambers, poop decks and orlops. Each night Max asks me to leave him a note by his bed for the morning, with some new fact about the infamous vessel. Sometimes I remember.
Then, the other day, Oli and I were in the car, having just dropped Max at school.
'When Titanic sinks Mama?' he asked.
'The Titanic sunk in 1912, Oli.'
'Oh', he says, then 'When dinosaurs sink?'
'Dinosaurs are extinct, Oli.' I tell him. 'It means they don't exist any more.'
The phonetics are identical and it makes marvel again at how the world is slowly revealing itself to this child.
'Do peoples sink Mum?' he asks.
Sink, extinct, think...'Sometimes' I say.
*density and intoxicated for those of you with aspirations for the scrabble board.