I Don't Know, Honey

Published: Mon 06 January 2020
Updated: Mon 06 January 2020
By Ed

In fiction.

a philosophical discourse between mother and child

CHILD: Mum, why is the sky that colour?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.

CHILD: Because I read on the Internet that it has to do with sunlight coming through the atmosphere and that's what colours it.

MOTHER: Yes, that sounds right.

CHILD: Because you know how in space it's black?


CHILD: Yeah because I've never to space but I've seen pictures and it's always black, but that's just the sky too. It's the same sky. But if you're not in the atmosphere it's black, so that's probably the colour that it really is, but when you're in the atmosphere like we are then it's not black, the atmosphere colours it.

MOTHER: Yes, that makes sense.

CHILD: And it looks like that because the atmosphere has a colour when the Sun shines through it, but it doesn't when there's no Sun like at night because then you can see the black, and you can see space because you can see the stars and things that are in space. And the stars are still there when the Sun comes out but you can't see them because the Sun colours the atmosphere and it covers them up.

MOTHER: I don't know about that, honey, it's very complicated. I'm sure you're mostly right, but it's always a bit more complicated. I was always taught that you can't see the stars because the Sun is so bright, which is slightly different from the atmosphere being coloured.



MOTHER: But I don't know for sure. It could be both. or we could both be wrong, and it's some other reason entirely.

CHILD: Yes. But I like your reason, Mum.

MOTHER: OK honey.

CHILD: You're really clever and you're much older than me so you know more about it so you're probably right.

MOTHER: But you're much cleverer than me, dear!

CHILD: Yes but I'm only little, Mum, so I don't know as much. I think when I get to be as old as you then I will be a bit cleverer than you, but not yet because it's not just cleverness that counts but also all the things you know, and you're really clever and you're old enough to know a lot of things. You learn more things when you get older.

MOTHER: Thank you, honey.

CHILD: Yes and when I am as old as you I will be really clever AND I'll know a lot of things.

MOTHER: Yes dear, you will be very good at thinking about things. And you're already very clever now, and you know lots of things, even at your age, so you're much cleverer than lots of adults I know. I'm very proud of you.


CHILD: Mum, the sky has changed colour.

MOTHER: Yes, it has. Why is that?

CHILD: I don't know. Maybe it has to do with how much atmosphere there is.

MOTHER: No, honey, there's always the same amount of atmosphere.

CHILD: But it is more for the Sun now isn't it?

MOTHER: No, dear. The atmosphere stays the same and the Sun moves.

CHILD: No Mum that's not what I mean.

MOTHER: So what do you mean?

CHILD: I mean if you're the Sun and you're right up above us in the sky then the sunlight just has to come straight down to us, and it's just however much atmosphere there is. But if it's like now when the Sun is over there and its nearly touching the horizon then it has to come a long way through lots of atmosphere because it can't come straight down, it has to come over here and it has to come at an angle that comes through lots of atmosphere.

MOTHER: Oh ... oh I see what you mean, yes. Yes honey, that does make sense. That sounds right.

CHILD: And that's why it's green now.

MOTHER: Yes, honey.

CHILD: And not brown any more.

MOTHER: Yes, honey.



MOTHER: Yes, honey?

CHILD: Why did people used to say the sky is blue?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.

CHILD: Because I read on the Internet that there used to be sayings about how the sky was blue. Like you know sayings?

MOTHER: Sayings?

CHILD: Like when something bad happens and you say "cellar V".

MOTHER: Oh, you mean "C'est la vie".

CHILD: Seller vee?

MOTHER: No, watch my mouth: C'est. La. Vie. Three words.

CHILD: Those aren't words.

MOTHER: They are, they're not English words though. It's another language.

CHILD: What language?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.

CHILD: Oh. Do you know what it means?

MOTHER: No, I don't think anyone speaks it any more.

CHILD: Oh. So nobody knows?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.


CHILD: I think it means "Everything's Great!" because sometimes you say things like that too.

MOTHER: No, I don't think that's right.

CHILD: Because sometimes a bad thing happens like you drop your sandwich on the floor and you say "fucking fantastic"...

MOTHER: Language, dear.

CHILD: Sorry mum. You say "fantastic" but it's not really fantastic it's quite bad, so it's sort of funny because that's the wrong thing to say.

MOTHER: Yes, dear.

CHILD: Yes, so I think seller vee means something like that, like "everything's great!" or "cool!" or something like that.

MOTHER: Yes, dear.


CHILD: Oh yeah so you know how seller vee is a saying?


CHILD: Yes so that's a saying for when something bad happens, but there are different sayings for other things.


CHILD: Like when I have a question but the question doesn't have an answer and you don't know what to answer then you can ask "How long is a piece of string?" and I don't know how long it is.

MOTHER: Oh yes, but it's OK, you don't need to know how long it is...

CHILD: No I know, I know that now that I don't need to know how long it is because it's just a saying.

MOTHER: Yes, that's right. Because I know you worry when there's not an answer, but sometimes things don't have an answer.

CHILD: No, it's OK, I read on the Internet about it and I know it's just a saying now. It's a thing you say when the question doesn't have an answer, it's like an example of a question without an answer so it's like you're saying these are the same kinds of question, this question and your question, and they don't have answers.

MOTHER: Yes, dear, that's right.

CHILD: I read it on the Internet because I was looking up how long a piece of string was and it said it doesn't have an answer, and the answer doesn't really matter and nobody knows anyway.

MOTHER: Yes, honey.

CHILD: And it had these other questions that didn't have answers and people can ask those too if you ask them a question but it doesn't have an answer.


CHILD: Yes and one of them was "How many roads must a man walk down?".

MOTHER: Oh yes, I have heard that.

CHILD: Yes and one of them was "Does the poop shit in the woods?"

MOTHER: Language.

CHILD: Sorry Mum. It was "Does the poop poop in the woods?".

MOTHER: Pope, dear.

CHILD: Does the poop pope in the woods?

MOTHER: No, dear, "Does the pope shit in the woods?".

CHILD: Language, Mum.

MOTHER: Sorry. It's "Does the pope poop in the woods?".

CHILD: Oh OK. What's a pope?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.

CHILD: Oh. Does anyone know?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.

CHILD: So can you say "How long is a piece of string?" now?

MOTHER: Maybe. I don't know if that makes sense. Maybe.





CHILD: How do you know it's pope and not poop?

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.

CHILD: Oh. So it might be poop then.

MOTHER: No, dear, it's definitely pope.


MOTHER: I don't know, I heard it somewhere, but it's definitely pope.



CHILD: And one of the questions was "Why is the sky blue?" and it confused me.

MOTHER: Oh yes? Why?

CHILD: Because we know a lot about the sky, just like we were just talking about, about how underneath it's just space really but it looks like it has a colour because of sunlight in the atmosphere makes it look like it's been coloured in.

MOTHER: Yes, that's right.

CHILD: Yes and so we sort of know the answer, so you shouldn't say it when someone asks a difficult question because you should say a question that doesn't have an answer, but this one does, and we know what it is.

MOTHER: I see. Yes, I suppose you're right.

CHILD: So why do you say it?

MOTHER: Well let me think. I haven't heard that one, so it must be very old. Maybe they didn't know about the sky back then.

CHILD: No, I think they did.

MOTHER: I mean they might not have known how it worked.

CHILD: No, I think they did.



MOTHER: Are you worried about the blue?

CHILD: The what?

MOTHER: The blue - how they would say "Why is the sky blue?", when it isn't.

CHILD: No, I know about that because it's like when you say "clear as mud" when things are clear even though mud isn't clear, and how you say "fucking fantastic"...

MOTHER: Language.

CHILD: Sorry ... how you say "fantastic" when things are bad even though fantastic means good. It's sort of a joke.

MOTHER: Ah yes, ok. I suppose that makes sense. Because I was thinking that maybe the sky used to be blue, but your explanation makes more sense.


MOTHER: You're very clever.

CHILD: Yes, but so are you Mum.

MOTHER: I don't know, honey.