The thing about conversations with Alex at almost-four is how quickly they can change from normal little-kid topics and silliness to big issues that I have no idea how to handle.
Alex: When my ear hurt at school, I was wearing my shirt with red and green apples.
Me: Oh, that's right, because remember what Dr. Fragetta said?
Alex: He said my ear was as red as my shirt.
Me: Yep. And he also said you had the reddest eardrum he'd seen all week.
Alex: How did Dr. Fragetta see my eardrum?
Me: Well, your eardrum isn't very far in, so it's easy for him to see it if he shines a light in there. That's why you have to be so careful not to put anything in your ear, because it might hurt your eardrum.
Alex: [quoting her teacher] You should never put anything in your ear that's smaller than your elbow.
Me: Should you put a pencil in your ear?
Me: Should you put a crayon in your ear?
Me: Should you put an ice cream cone in your ear?
Alex: N- ...It's bigger than your elbow, so you can.
Me: It's probably not a good idea, though, because you'd get ice cream all over your eardrum.
Alex: What if your eardrum was much too hot?
Me: That would only happen if you had a really high fever.
Alex: What if I had a really high fever and my eardrum was much too hot?
Me: I would give you some medicine to bring your fever down.
Alex: What if there was no medicine?
Me: But there is.
Alex: Some places, there is no medicine.
Me: [recognizing the reference] Is that from the book you read at school?
Alex: For Every Child, a Better World.
Me: The places where there isn't any medicine, that doesn't usually happen in our country.
Me: Because we live in a rich country that has a lot of resources, a lot of things and money and medicine and people who went to college to learn how to be doctors. Some other countries are poor and don't have as much of those things.
Alex: Maybe before you were born, there was a race for all the countries and our country won.
Me: I don't think that happened.
Alex: Then why is our country rich and other countries are poor?
...Go ahead. Tell me how you
would answer that question in a way that is honest and yet age-appropriate for a four-year-old. It's not like there's a pop-up book of Guns, Germs, and Steel
I told her that it was a hard question with a lot of answers. When pressed, I mentioned that since people first started living here the US has had a lot of natural resources, like good soil for farming and metals to make things from, and that meant that we could make a lot of things and have a lot of things. She asked for another reason, and I said that a lot of people want things that come from our country, like listening to our music and watching our movies and wanting to use good ideas that people in our country have had. She asked for another reason, and I mentioned that some countries are not rich because of bad things that are happening there, like if there is a war there and a lot of fighting it is hard for people to have jobs and make things, so those countries might be very poor. She stopped there and so I did too. My next example was going to be that people in rich countries have sometimes taken things from poor countries, and that makes it harder for those countries to get rich themselves.
But seriously, what would
you say? If you had time to prepare, which I didn't?