According to psychologists, who may or may not be right, the “critical years” occur before the age of five. While I disagree with this, their theory supports the idea I’m about to submit, so I’ll subscribe to it for now.
If you have a typical 4-year old, you are accustomed to hearing a zillion questions a day, only 500,000 of which you can answer intelligently, if you have the energy to answer them at all. The rest of them merit the reply, “I don’t know.”
“Are there purple combines?” I don’t know.
“Why does that man have pictures on his skin?” (Tattoos) I don’t know.
“Does that lady have a baby in her tummy?” I don’t know. (You can’t always tell, eh?)
“Why does Aunt Betts have a dog?” I don’t know.
“What color do you get when you mix skinny (skin color) and yellow?” I don’t know.
“Is your baby a boy baby or a girl baby?” I don’t know.
“Why is that truck blue?” I don’t know.
“Does Heaven have a floor?” I don’t know.
“Why do we have to have pizza for lunch every Saturday?” I don’t know.
“Why can’t I have the orange cup?” I don’t know.
“How do we get up to Heaven?” (I believe he’s talking about the actual mode of transportation vs. living a life of virtue.) I don’t know.
“Where is my little car?” “Which one?” “The red one that Grandma gave me.” I don’t know.
“What name is my guardian angel?” I don’t know.
“Is that a take-away tractor?” “A what?” “A take-away tractor?” I don’t know.
Actually, we did get to the bottom of this one after being questioned on it 13,729 times. Today, I said, “Isaac, no one knows what you mean by a ‘take-away tractor’.”
He replied, “It can do sharp turns.”
“OH! You mean an articulating tractor!”
Sheesh. Kids books are just too high-tech these days. I mean, that has to be where he picked it up, because we wouldn’t normally say, “Hey, Isaac! Look out your window! There’s an articulating tractor pulling a seed drill!”
But I suppose we ought to, because he obviously knows what they are.
And, so, as you can see, during those “critical years”, most parents spend about 12 of those months saying “I don’t know” and sounding like idiots. That sticks in the subconscious of the child, and when he’s old enough to learn how to navel-gaze, he finds this whole year of parental “I don’t knows” waiting for him. Teenagers therefore conclude that their parents know nothing.
Or, you know, it just could have something to do with parents not teaching children how to respect their superiors. Maybe….if you buy into Ockham’s razor.