4-Year Old Skeptic

A sort-of follow-up on my older article, To Easter Bunny Or Not To Easter Bunny
Aiden is proving to be our most skeptical child. And it’s not because he’s negative or doubtful. He’ll actually tap dance for strangers and ask if they would like to pay him for it. He’s skeptical because he likes to figure out how a thing came together. At two years old we constantly found him lying on the floor watching the wheels of a toy car as he glided it back and forth, trying to grasp, I think, how the wheels turned while the car didn’t.

At four years old he learned (and understood!) how to count musical notation.

These days he makes stuff out of paper or trash. We can hardly throw anything away because he sees it as a potential component to something he can build. Recently he designed a three-dimensional box out of paper and provided picture instructions on how to do it. Yesterday he took two light bulb boxes from the recycle bin, taped them together, and devised rules for a game, again, with illustrated instructions.

This desire to break everything down to components and answers has made the holidays an interesting experience. At four years old Aiden found a packaged toy in our bedroom closet and announced with a huge smile that Mom and Dad go shopping and pretend to be Santa Clause. There was no disappointment because the magic was in having potentially figured it out.

We didn’t give him an outright yes or no. I just asked him, “What makes you think that?” And when he gave me his evidence, I nodded my head and said, “Very interesting idea.” I’m learning he doesn’t want us to give him a definite yes or no. He prefers a little mystery so he can continue to find evidence to prove or disprove his theories.

Skepticism & The Tooth Fairy

On Christmas Eve, at six-and-a-half years old, Aiden finally lost his first tooth and we were expecting a meeting between two holiday mystery characters. Santa Clause and the tooth fairy in one night! Of course, the solution of one led to the solution of the other. “I know Mom is the tooth fairy,” he said.

We played our usual run-around game, ”Why do you assume it’s Mom? What if it’s Dad?”

He laughed, “Because the Tooth Fairy is a girl!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “In that short film Dad made, Larry was the Tooth Fairy.”

“Oh, yeah…” Aiden stewed on that, looking back and forth from me to Israel.

Last week when he lost his second tooth he decided to take a risk and test his theory by addressing the tooth fairy, herself. Or, himself. After receiving payment for his tooth he put a note under his pillow. Israel and I responded to it on the same piece of paper, with a little clue to the true nature of the “tooth fairy.” The new information surprised him so he asked a follow-up question and we answered that, as well. It continued for a few nights. Here’s what the note said after the third night:

Aiden: I love you.

Tooth fairy: Thank you for the teeth. We love you too.

Aiden: Who are you!

Tooth fairy: We are the ones who buy your special teeth.
We are the tooth fairy.
Why do you want to know?

Aiden: Because I want to see what you look like.

Tooth fairy: I look a little bit like you. –#1
(in different handwriting): And so do I. –#2

Apparently, we threw him off with our last response. He came running into the kitchen where the rest of us were sitting at the table and he announced, “My toothfairies are clones of me!”

We exchanged looks. We questioned his theory. We asked him to read his note again and emphasized the words, “a little bit.” But he wasn’t thinking about the qualifier. He was chewing on the implications of this new bizarre idea. He looked around the dining table, shot his arm into to a point toward Blake and yelled, “And your tooth fairy must be two clones of you!” He then pointed to Dad and Trinity and myself, “And you have your own clones . . . and so do you!”

We were slightly concerned.

To Discover Or To Be Told

Later that night Aiden confided in me. “I’m embarrassed that I wrote, ‘I love you,’ to my clones. I meant for that to go to you because I thought you were the tooth fairy.”

I couldn’t keep his sweet vulnerability exposed like that. I told him, “You know, Aiden? A lot of people say that I look a little bit like you.”

“No, you don’t,” he answered.

Now I understood his switch to the Clone Theory. He had no idea we look similar. “Yeah, I really do. A little bit.”

Recognition pushed his eyes wide open and he emphasized the words, “A little bit?”

“Yeah,” I said. “And Daddy looks a little like you, too.”

He smiled and his embarrassment vanished. But within minutes disappointment replaced it and he complained to us, “Now I know for sure that Mom and Dad are the tooth fairy.” It turns out he really does prefer the questions, the theories, the evidence collecting, over hearing the answer from someone else.

“I didn’t say that, Aiden,” I immediately backtracked. “Blake and Trinity look like you, too. And Grandma Gertrude has the same exact nose as you.”

He laughed and let it go. Hopefully, I left it open just enough for him to have sunk back into his happy state of wonderful skeptical inquiry again. His third tooth is loose now and Easter is on its way, so I guess we’ll find out soon enough. If not, it might be time to nudge his questions in a newer, deeper direction, anyway.
missing tooth

13 thoughts on “4-Year Old Skeptic

  1. How touching and beautiful! And VERY perceptive for his age… Either that, or my nieces and nephs are a little behind the curve, LOL! It’s so awesome that you can continue to challenge him, yet keep magic and mystery alive without the need for dogma and doctrine.

    BTW, welcome back! You keep us filled with mystery and magic as well, wondering when you will make a most exellent appearance, LOL!

  2. I’ve been a Mormon my whole life and have been recently rethinking my beliefs. I’ve been leaning towards agnosticism and stumbled across your blog. Let me just say that reading your posts has been a breath of fresh air. I especially appreciated your story about leaving the church.

    I’m still struggling with my position and am not quite sure of how I want to make the transition about from Mormonism. I’ve started a blog about it and would love your insight/advice as well as that of your readers.

    My blog

    Thanks so much for writing this wonderful blog!

  3. Agnostic Mom~
    Thanks for your hilarious posts and insight. I am a new Agnostic mom. Both sides of the family are very religious. This should be an interesting journey! I love reading your thoughts. Thanks!

  4. So cute, I can’t wait till my boy starts asking questions and collecting evidence. I’m so excited to help him explore and find things out on his own.

  5. Clearly a very bright boy and what a pleasure to welcome and nurture that kind of person into the world. For the other commenters that are interested in the agnostic world view, I would like to suggest that they look up “igtheism” in Wikipedia. It has some advantages over agnosticism.

    Very often agnosticism is interpreted as meaning “I just don’t know what to believe.” This gives a somewhat negative/confused connotation and suggests that such a world view is highly relative as opposed to taking a more absolute postion.

    Igtheism, on the other hand, takes the position that being and atheist or a theist is impossible since the term “God” is undefined so one can’t possibly believe or disbelieve in “God’s” existence. This presents the advantage of being very positive, clear and absolutist which is a great postion to stake out for oneself. I doubt that you will change the way you live from an agnostic position but it does provide a measure of comfort for yourself. However, I don’t recommend that you broadcast the fact that you are an igtheist since no one ever heard of it and usually confuse it with ichthyist and think you study fish!

  6. I have a boy, nearly 4. This recent EasterBunnyseason had him exclaiming that he knew who the bunny was. “It’s mommy and daddy.” Wow.
    For years I have agonized over lying to my kids so my husband gets the Winter ho-ho guy. If he aks me about santa, I tell him to ask his father. Let HIM do the lying.
    Then Easter comes ’round. I am a SUCKER for bunnies. I found myself pulled into the game! Telling the kids that the Easter bunny will come felt foreign to me – I am lying – but I told him before we headed out the door to collect eggs that it is a game.
    I too felt that pang of guilt when he said we were the EBunny and, like you, asked him why he thought so. He’s not at that level of sophistication yet so he said he didn’t know. Your post has helped me realize that knowing doesn’t counts so much as the journey.
    Thanks for being online with your thoughts and experiences. Makes the lonely atheist (what’s in a name?) feel less alone.

  7. I’ve been listening to Paperclipping and found this blog from an old interview (Something Happening Here) I found on iTumes. 😉 Glad to see you blogging here again. What was the name of the book you contributed to? All the articles you had on The Humanist Network are not there anymore. The web site seems to be having a redesign. Are they available elsewhere?

  8. “It turns out he really does prefer the questions, the theories, the evidence collecting, over hearing the answer from someone else.”

    You are raising a VERY bright little boy, who…if continually allowed to USE his brain…will grow into a very bright young man. This gives me hope for the future of this planet. Seriously. Thank you.

  9. SOOOO happy you posted again. I haven’t been in here in a while, but was pleased to find this marvelous post about your wonderful family and your wonderful son. I wish there were more people like you in the world. It seems so odd to me that the religious people are the ones so full of negativity and sadness. I would love to have your family visit with ours some day. Thanks again for writing this great stuff, keep it coming!

  10. I was raised by a fundamentalist JW family. I was severely beaten for my disobedience, which was measured by my doubt of my parent’s omniscience. I am an agnostic, but, at pains of years of sitting down with my beliefs and comparing them with reality. I can declare victory over it’s command of my life, but the truth is that the brainwash will be buried with my lifeless body.
    While atheists say that the universe is an accident, and has no need of a god, I would say that the origin of the universe is a mystery, and we have no need of religion. A creator is a separate issue from legends created by witchdoctors sold to goatherders who did not understand that the earth is not the center of the universe. But, there is a flip side to that coin. If you choose to believe that a mishap caused sin, and that god will come to the rescue, you must deal with the reality. That evolution is the governor of this planet, and as it has done with several ecosystems in the past, if you cannot adapt, you will perish,(dinosaurs which moses forgot to mention), and evolution doesn’t hear your prayers. If there is a designer of the universe, it’s almost beside the point. He’s sitting and watching as chaos unfolds, and he doesn’t interfere.
    Prove me wrong.

    Agnostic Universe

  11. Your kid is brilliant, probably smarter than that other lame religious mom’s kid that you saw at Superstore who’d already learned multiplication. Is that what you wanted to hear?

  12. My 2 year old does the same thing with his cars. I hope that means he turns out the same as Aiden. Given myself and his mother are both skeptics, I have almost no doubt he will.

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