Our kids know many things. They know that it takes DNA from two individuals to create a new individual of any mammalian species. They know humans are mammals. They know that vibrating strings inside our piano make the sounds when they strike the keys, and that the way they make the sound is by pushing air in a way human ears and brains can perceive. They know that whales are more closely related to cows than to fish, and that our computer works by processing data digitally, with language of numbers. They know these things because they asked, and because we explained as much as we could, and helped them look up the rest. Of course, they know the difference between a reputable source and a sketchy one. They are 5 and 3 years old.
Granted, our kids have parents who admire and praise curiosity, and who are curious and voraciously pursuing new information themselves. To me, this seems normal, good, positive. But it might cost my kids their earliest and dearest friendships, and much earlier than I had anticipated.
My kids' friends are smart, curious kids themselves. But their families appear to value other things above curiosity and knowledge seeking. Mostly, they call it innocence. While I am a proponent of kids being allowed to remain kids for as long as possible, I am finding myself increasingly at odds with my fellow playgroup mommies. Sometimes, it is explicit. Three of the mommies in my daughter's playgroup had a very pleasant and polite chat with me a few months ago to make sure that any information my daughter was given about combining DNA to create new individuals was to remain secret from their daughters. Why? I wanted to know. It turns out, because they had told their daughters that they had prayed for babies and God had put them in their tummies. I am not sure why the DNA info is supposed to contradict this, but apparently it does. So I added another line to what I have come to call "the Santa list" -- things my kids know about but are not allowed to tell other children.
But now it is getting worse. Where previously there were discrete items I could stick on a mental clipboard, now it is the very fact of seeking additional knowledge that is apparently taboo. Just the other day, we were looking at pictures of funny plants in a book. One of them had aerial roots rather than the normal underground ones the kids expected. One of the kids wanted to know why. I opened my mouth to say that it received nutrients from the air, and that we could get a video on youtube of exactly how it worked, but was preempted by a firm and conclusive "because God made it that way" from another mom. Case closed. Innocence preserved.
I am not sure why a belief in God must prevent us from knowing that some things are made by recombining parental DNA and other get nutrients from the air. I am not sure why a belief in Santa or babies being made by prayers makes children any more "innocent" than an age-appropriate version of the truth. I AM sure that if I push my fellow playgroup moms on these issues, we will not be invited back to the playgroup. Soon, that might be the price we pay for letting our children learn things. But what is the price my children's friends are paying for their enforced innocence?