when my four year old is like a wise old monk

yes, half the shit that comes out of her mouth is number one, yelled most often, and number two, doesn’t make much sense and i’m left sputtering, trying to quickly say something to appease her before she begins to get frustrated and loud.  but there are times when she says things that are brilliant.  and i don’t just mean cute or funny.  but really sort of wise.

earlier today, she was, in the latest usual fashion, riding in circles around the living room on her tricycle while simultaneously talking with me about art.  “ruth,” i said, “i want to do some art with you.  real art, not just coloring.”  she didn’t miss a beat before she said, “i don’t like art.”  (more of her grandmother’s influence, i suspect.  nip this in the bud, you bet your ass i will).  “everyone likes art, ruth.  it’s part of the human experience.” (yes, i say things like “human experience” to my not-yet-four-year-old) i went on, “art isn’t just coloring and stuff you know, but anything creative.  like books.  did you know books are art?”  (ruth loves books). she began to argue with me.  “yes,” i said, “books are art because they come from someone’s mind.  someone creates them, the story, and writes it down, using words.”  that’s not art, i think she started to say.  i argued, “yes, it is, ruth.  the author uses words to create a story from their mind.”  but, something, i’m not quite sure what, was getting lost in translation.  art to ruth means crayons and paper, glue and glitter, and she was having a real hard time getting past this.  i could tell because she was giving me that not-too-far-off-from-a-teenager-aloof-c’mon-mom-what-are-you-stupid look as she pedaled in circles.

“but, mom.  how do they make the books?”  typical young person weird question you barely know what it means, much less how to answer it.  “they think up the story,” i continued, on my own logical path, “and write it down in the book.”  then, she said the thing that at first just made no sense, but suddenly derailed me into a different line of thinking in the way that only the slanted way a small child looks at life can.  “but why are all the books square?”

(mouth open to respond quickly, then suddenly stop, changing my perspective)

she was still thinking about art on the terms she understood.  colors, shapes, and textures.  and, i swear to god, it’s the first time i ever wondered why books, hell, any paper, is in the shape of a rectangle.  (????!!!!  right?)




if i could give enough space here, i would, to the kind of crazy vortex that was opened in my mind when she uttered these seemingly simple words.  why are the books square?

after i wondered at this a while, ruth waiting for an answer, me not having one, i started to think back to my college days.  creative writing 101.  the concrete poem.


(i should have a copy write thingy for this, i know.  i suck)

and wondering, myself, about the history of the shape of paper and books, and wondering if there are differently shaped books made.

here is what someone at answers at yahoo.com had to say:


“i’m going to guess the answer lies in structural integrity.the main support of a book is in the spine and, with a square book, there’s more space from spine to edge of page and more room for something bad to happen, say tearing of pages (think of a lever for example, if both sides are the same distance relative to the fulcrum, and equal weight swould be balanced, however if you shift the sides to different lengths, then you can put unequal weights on each sides and the lever would still be level)

furthermore, with a rectangular book, relatively more of the page’s perimeter is in contact with the spine than with a square page.

the only square books i can think of are usually hard-covered and very short in length (kids books for example). and this kind of illustrates my point, the hard cover prevents tearing and the weak arms of kids aren’t enough to tear pages.

rambling, i know, but yeah, i’ll put my money on structural integrity.”

i want to show ruth some concrete poems.
in any case, i thought it was interesting, and, really, just made me so excited to see where ruth’s interests will rove, so excited to traverse with her on her journey of discovery in this life.  i hope i’m a help/support to her exploration and not a hindrance.  that is, perhaps, my greatest goal in this life.  to be a help to my children, not a hindrance.
also, my kid is like Buddha sometimes, amidst the yelling and whining and constant demanding.  you have to be quick to catch it, though.

Author: Terry

Welcome! I am a Waldorf and unschooling-inspired homeschooling parent of three, ages 2, 5, and 8 living in the metro Lansing area writing from the front lines of parenthood. Join me as I try to navigate homeschooling and bask in the craziness of life with young ones. Feel free to leave a comment. I would love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by!

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