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Have you ever had an argument with a 6 year old?

I have.

But before you consider me a fool, here’s how it usually goes down.  Your 6 year old thinks you, the parent, are god until he goes to school.  Then, his teacher takes your place.  Inevitably, the 6 year old will mishear something that the teacher says and later the 6 year repeats the misunderstanding to you in a casual conversation.

Son: “Dad Can you take us to see the border line between Canada and the United States?”

Dad: “Sure, we can do that sometime but you realize there’s not actually a line there, right?.”

Son: “Yes there is.  Mrs Parker told us and I read it in a book at the library.”

Dad: “Well, sometimes countries put up fences or streets to mark the border between countries or states but there’s no actual line on the ground.”

Son:  “Yes there is.  That’s why they made two different countries there.  Dad.”

Dad: “I think you have it backwards.  People sometimes put a line there because that’s where they decided to separate the two countries.  Just like there’s a fence between our yard and the Jones’ yard.”

Son: “But you put the fence there because that’s where our grass ends. Dad, Mrs Parker told us and I know she’s right.”

Dad: “I’m sure Mrs Parker told you about borders, but I don’t think she said there’s an actual line there.”

Son: “Yes she did! You don’t know!  You’re wrong because you haven’t been to school in a long time and you just don’t like Mrs Parker.”

Dad: [Finally decides to shut up]

There comes a point when it’s pointless to argue or to try and make them see the truth.  I’ve learned that it’s usually best to stop far earlier than this, so I haven’t actually gone this far into the conversation with my younger children.  But the first time it happened, I thought I had to teach him and I kept it going.

It’s hilarious when you get to that sudden self-realization that, “You’re arguing with a 6 year old!  Shut up already”

This is exactly how I relate to my extended religious side of the family too.  Very early on I thought they’d actually WANT to discuss my reasons for leaving the LDS faith and that like me there were facts that they hadn’t known which they’d want to know.

Epic fail.

They already “know” everything and they are certain that their teacher (the church) has told them everything they need to know.  They even make claims of having studied further just like my 6 year old claimed to have read his facts in a library book.

But talking with a religious fanatic is like starting an argument with a 6 year old.  You may be right, but you’ll come out looking foolish either way.  They’ll claim to know things they couldn’t possibly know; they’ll ascribe evil motivations; they’ll assume to know of your intentions;  they’ll diminish the difficulty of your personal decisions; and they will plainly wall themselves in with appeals to authority.

The difference is, of course that I could have driven for 2 days and actually shown my son the U.S/Canadian border and proven to him that I was right.  Somehow I suspect that even that would still have made me the loser though.  He’d be embarrassed. Right or wrong, who even wants to be around a smug “told-you-so” sort of person no matter how right they are?

You can’t drive a believer to the evidence and even if you could it wouldn’t improve your relationship with them.  No matter how right you are, to them you would  always be the adult who HAD to prove his point in an argument with a 6 year old.

I have no idea when my then- 6 year old figured out the nature of political borders but I know I didn’t teach it to him.  At 13 now I’m fairly certain he understands.

I’m not so confident that my extended family will ever understand the nature of their current beliefs.