Sunday evening, the Philosophical Family sat down to a simple meal of pasta, salad, and hard-boiled eggs.
Bella (age 3) observed matter-of-factly, as she peeled her egg, "We arwe eating the baby chickens!"
To which Ana (age 1) replied, "BAAAYY-BEE!"
Miriam, the prescient 6-year-old, however, was not so sanguine.
"Dad, are we really eating baby chickens?"
"No, there are no babies in these eggs. They are unfertilized." Scientist Dad replied. "Do you know what 'unfertilized' means, Miriam?"
"Uh. No." She took a bite, refusing to pursue the definition of "unfertilized."
I could see it coming, and--after a prolonged but thoughtful munch on the not-baby-chicken--The Question came.
"Dad, why are there no babies in these eggs, but there are babies in other eggs?"
I did what you should never do: I giggled.
Scientist Dad did what you should do: "Well, what do you think, Miriam?"
"I have no idea!" She really didn't.
I stopped giggling and, as penance for my sin, stepped in.
"Well, Miriam, who lays the egg--the girl chicken or the boy chicken?" I asked.
Now she was back on familiar ground, "The girl chicken!"
"Who has babies--girls or boys?"
"And if there isn't a daddy, can a girl be a mommy?" (Chickens don't deliberately use IVF, to my knowledge. Scientist Dad confirms this to be so.)
"No, she can't. There has to be a boy chicken, too."
"It's like that with these eggs: the mommy has the eggs ready for the babies. But if there's no rooster nearby, there will be no babies in the egg."
"Oh!" she saw. "I see! If the Daddy Chicken doesn't live near the Mommy Chicken, then there are no babies in the chicken's eggs!"
And that, my friends, is how it is.
I repented my giggle, Miriam got her answer, and the Scientist Dad enjoyed a good meal. Be ready the next time you boil an egg for your child. You never know where the dinner conversation will go...