Deoxyribonucleic acid and other simple concepts

Richard and I reckon we've got the bases covered pretty well when it comes to helping the kids with their homework. By education and job training we can do maths, English, French, all the sciences (with varying degrees of success), RE, philosophy, German and Latin (the latter two to a quite pathetic standard). Through our various interests we can also make a fair stab at music, history and art history, geography, sociology, psychology, literature, politics, classics and cosmology. As we grow older we find ourselves more and more interested in the bits we didn't study - and how they all join up.

Which is probably why Jordan will do anything to avoid asking us to help her with her homework. Last night she was stuck, needing a simple sentence to describe what DNA ia made of. I started on base pairing and the double helix with great gusto. Richard then joined in, wanting to fill in his knowledge gaps since he's never quite 'got' how DNA, genes and chromosomes relate to each other (a rare thing: me knowing something better than him). We then got my old textbook out in order to look at meiosis afresh. My poor thirteen-year-old with a homework deadline started shouting 'But all I wanted was a simple sentence!!!'

It's not the first time we've got carried away. When Jordan was 7 she asked us “Do human beings have a plug?” – seemingly a simple question with a quick answer – NO! But in answering we talked about where energy comes from – that was physics. We talked of coal, and trees, and the sun – that was biology. We discussed nuclear energy, Hiroshima, and why the war was happening in Afghanistan – that covered history and politics. We then got onto the energy of the stars and the galaxies – that was cosmology. And we talked of how we too are made of the dust of the stars, and how all energy was originally flung out from one beginning, and how we believe that that beginning was God – that was theology. No wonder Jordan started getting headaches from an early age.

I guess every child has their own cross to bear when it comes to their parents. Complicated answers to simple questions is probably one of the worst things we inflict on our kids.


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