Columns Small Talk

Small Talk: Ponderings of preschoolers

Jean Gillette hopes you will enjoy some of her earlier columns, in a sympathetic salute to all young moms today.

When you pass by a minivan packed with preschoolers, you may think it is just a car full of kids. 

It is, in fact, a mini think tank. While confined for long distances in their booster seats, youngsters will debate and ponder the ways of the world and draw their first conclusions on the meaning of existence. 

You would think that the subjects on their newly forming minds would relate directly to that which most concerns them. 

Where the next Batman toy is coming from, what’s for lunch and when they can next go to the park with the really neat slide. 

Instead, they swing between small points of silliness and ones of true weight. The heaviest debate we had was about marriage, when a small group of 4-year-old boys began to consider this volatile subject. 

First Bobby noted boldly that he was going to marry his little brother. Tommy, somehow more rooted in reality than the rest of the carload, promptly pointed out that you cannot marry your brother. He added that you don’t know who you are going to marry because you haven’t met them yet. 

This carried no weight with his peers. 

Bobby responded with his best defense, “My mommy told me I could marry anyone I wanted to, and I am going to marry my little brother.”

Johnny joined the debate and solidified Bobby’s sibling-preference stance by stating that he might marry his little sister. 

Tommy, however, is a patient philosopher and pointed out to Johnny that you can’t marry your sister, either. Johnny also ignored such wisdom, restating his intent. 

Finally, the true thinker of the group took a stand. Jimmy had been considering all the alleged options throughout the discussion, and now stated, “I’m not going to get married. I’m just going to get a dog.” Silence ensued as all four boys considered the enormous appeal of Jimmy’s revolutionary idea. 

When the subject came up again in the presence of my son, he added this dimension. 

“You don’t know who you are going to marry, because you don’t know what they will look like when they grow up,” he said. 

My first reaction was horror at such an attitude, emphasizing only the physical appearance in your choice of mate. 

How could I have raised such a son? I began preparing a long discussion in my head to be delivered in the next few days. 

Later, a 3-year-old neighbor girl told my son she might like to marry him. He put my fears to rest by telling her that she couldn’t know if she wanted to marry him, because she didn’t know what he would look like when he grew up. At least he’s fair, if narrow-minded. 

Other points of philosophy raised during the car-seat forum have included pondering the ways of the universe, like whether the moon is actually following us when we drive and whether or not the fog resting atop that nearby hill is actually a cloud that has come down so low or smoke from too many chimneys. 

One concluded that you get milk if you mix bread, butter and water, and another wanted  to know just how those hot-air balloons stay up so high and whether leprechauns are very tiny or sort of big. 

The kids I know are seldom interested in any cold pronouncement of the basic facts. 

They want to speculate and cogitate, and I let them, figuring that they will learn the truth soon enough from their father and the Discovery Channel. 

Whimsy will rarely be included in the three Rs, but it is alive and well in the world of the rolling preschool think tank. 

Jean Gillette isa freelance writer who never underestimates the wisdom of a 4-year-old. Contact her at

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