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There I was, playing with my nieces, ages 1 1/2 and 3. We were playing “school” which is the 3-year-old’s favourite pretend game. But, since it was dark outside, she stated that she didn’t normally go to school at night.

I suggested, in the spirit of pretending, that we pretend it was dark because of a solar eclipse. She looked puzzled as I waxed on about the moon moving in front of sun and making it dark for a few minutes. Then she ran away to her mom, wailing. I gathered up the 1 1/2 year old and went to see if what I had just said had really scared her.

And of course, it had. In my zeal to explain some strange beautiful rare event in the world, I had planted a picture in her three-year-old mind of the sun crashing into the moon and all the world going dark. Good work, Einstein, I thought, as I held the small crying girl and tried to make it right again. Nothing bad happens, no one gets hurt, I assured her.

What was I thinking, trying to explain the cosmos to a three year old, albeit a totally brilliant three year old. Who I made cry like I haven’t heard her cry since she was a small baby. Oh, there’s no worse feeling in the world than making a kid cry and knowing it’s your fault.

You never can tell what your words will do in the mind of your listener.

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