n an effort to maintain her omniscient mystique with our young children, my wife often warned them against hiding things from her because, like most mothers, she claimed to have eyes in the back of her head.
One day, she was working on a puzzle with our four children when our son, Michael, decided to test her assertion. Coming up behind Becky, he worked his preschool hands through her recent haircut until he got his fingers on her scalp.
“Michael! What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m looking for the eyes in the back of your head.”
Michael’s oldest sister, Sara, laughed. At 6, she knew that her mother had only one set of eyeballs. However, later that night, Sara tested her own theory as to the source of her mother’s wisdom by taking scissors into the bathtub where she tried to copy her mother’s latest haircut.
When my wife came to retrieve Sara from the tub, she found hair clinging to scissors hidden among bathtub toys. It was definitely a middle name moment.
“Sara Elizabeth! You cut your hair!” Becky exclaimed.
Sara, shocked that her mom noticed what she’d considered subtle cuts, erupted in tears asking, “Did God tell you?”
“God tells mothers many things,” she said. “Right now, God is telling me to put you to bed early.”
I, too, grew up thinking that my mom was sagacious. Whenever I had a question, I asked it until my propensity for random interrogatives finally earned me the unflattering family nickname of “Question Box.”
By the time I was approaching puberty, my potential to ask embarrassing questions grew exponentially. I suppose it was my mother’s attempt to suppress these awkward queries that caused her to enroll me in the junior high’s sex education program.
Unfortunately for my mom, every question answered in Mr. Buliver’s class spawned a dozen more. I had nowhere to bring my curiosity but to Mom.
One night while Mom drove my brother and me home from Royal Ambassadors, (RAs is the Southern Baptist version of Boy Scouts,) I popped off a question I’d been holding for days.
“Mom, do women really get pregnant every time they have sex?”
“I don’t know,” she said as blankly as though she was considering the possibility of rain.
Thinking my inquiry needed mathematical clarification, I added, “Well, since you only have three kids, you must have had sex with dad only three times. Right?”
She didn’t answer. She just drove. The fall air created an awkwardly silent veil that reminded me of the time I’d asked my Sunday school teacher if God could create a rock he couldn’t lift. Maybe I finally asked my mother the unanswerable question.
Mom drove in a distracted silence for another half mile until a bright railroad-crossing signal lit the night air. Mom slammed the brakes and brought us to a halt just over the safety line. A thumping on the car roof told us that the crossing arm was trying to hold us in place.
Panicked, my mom mashed the accelerator as she said, “Norris, quit asking so many silly questions.”
I looked out our back window. The sight of a splintered crossing arm swinging like a broken metronome at the oncoming train brought to mind the Bible verse we’d learned in RAs.
“Children, obey your parents … so that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
The irony did not escape me that I was almost killed asking about sex before I was too young to enjoy it.
“Yes ma’am.” I said and stopped asking her so many questions.