I have a nine-year-old son and his latest obsession (we have many, frequently, at our house) is weighing decisions. He will be sitting, calmly eating breakfast, when a pensive look will come over his face and he’ll say, “Would you rather…”
If one of his older sisters is anywhere around, this will immediately be interrupted with, “No! Oh, my God, not again!” or “Will you stop it??” or “You are such a freak!”
But me, I like his questions. I always take the time to consider them. He asks good questions. It’s a special stage in his cognitive and moral development that I cherish.
The would-you-rather questions always involve some sort of tough dilemma. For instance, he might ask, “Would you rather burn to death, or freeze to death?”
Even though I hate the cold and love a good fire, I say, “Freeze, because I’ve heard you get really warm before you die.” (I make a mental note to find him The Call of the Wild at our next library visit. He’s familiar with The Little Match Girl and I mention that as proof.) Then I say, “But if I could die in my sleep from smoke inhalation first, I might choose fire. You know I want to be cremated anyway, and that would save a step in the process.” He laughs.
“Would you rather be pretty or smart?”
“Smart,” I say, in a voice that conveys duh! “Smart, because it never goes away.”
“Yeah,” he says, “and you just keep getting smarter.”
“But some people get prettier, too.”
“Yeah. Like you.” (See why I like these discussions?)
“Thanks, honey. So do you. Handsome, I mean.”
“Yeah.” (We’re still waiting for his modesty to develop.) “Would you rather be blind or deaf?”
When he asks this, I suddenly remember going through this stage myself. Asking these tough questions, and really thinking about making a choice between two difficult things.
“Deaf,” I say. “You?”
“Deaf. Because you could still read and play sports and stuff.”
“You can still read when you’re blind.”
“Yeah, I know. Braille. And you could listen to books on tape.”
“And you’d still have music.” Something we both love. We sit and think about this in silence for a minute.
“Would you still get a song stuck in your head if you were deaf?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I guess. If you’d heard it before you went deaf. But Beethoven lost his hearing and he still made really beautiful new music. I bet it stays with you.”
“Maybe if I could see and hear first and then lost it, it would be better.”
“Maybe. But it might be worse. Then you would know what you were missing. I knew someone once who lost his sense of smell and he said he couldn’t taste food after that unless it was really salty or sour. He didn’t even really like to eat anymore, and when he did, it was because of the texture of food in his mouth, not the taste.”
“I’ve heard people who lose one thing get better at another. Maybe if you were blind you would start to hear lots better.”
“Maybe. I hope we never have to find out.”
“Me, too. I guess we’re pretty lucky.”
“Yeah, buddy, we are.” Thanks for reminding me.