Clark, six, was helping his dad make dinner. He watched admiringly as his dad used a big, scary-looking cleaver to hack off the end of the pork roast and put it aside.
“Daddy, why did you cut off the end of the roast?”
“Well, son, that’s what you do with a pork roast.”
Clark was six, so the follow-up was a given. “But, why?”
Max was about to answer glibly about pork or roasts but realized that he had no idea why one did that. Although briefly tempted to make something exotic up, something that involved Ninjas, he chose instead to say, “I have no idea. But that’s how Grandma Patsy taught me to do it, so let’s call her and ask her.” Max knew that Clark was always eager to FaceTime with Grandma Patsy, and this was as good an excuse as any.
Clark quickly brought Max’s iPad into the kitchen and called Grandma Patsy. Patsy, just as eager as Clark, answered immediately.
“Hey, Clark. How wonderful to see your sweet face. Hi, Max. I see you lurking behind Clark.” Grandma winked at Max and blew Clark a kiss. “What can I do for you gentlemen?”
“Mom, I’m making a pork roast for dinner. Max was helping me. I didn’t know how to explain why we cut off the end of the roast before we cook it.”
Grandma was about to speak, but all she could come up with was the same non-answer as Max, “because that’s what you do with a pork roast”. She laughed, chagrined, and confessed, “You know, Clark, I don’t know why. I’ll call Great Grandpa Joe and ask him. He’s the one who taught me to cook.”
Joe didn’t FaceTime so Grandma called him on the phone in the conventional way and posed the question to him while Clark and Max listened in via the FaceTime connection. Clark and Max then heard Great Grandpa Joe laughing so hard that they knew he had tears running down his cheeks. When he could finally catch his breath, they heard his answer.
“Patsy, when you were growing up we only had one, very small, roasting pan. When we had a pork roast, which was a very special occasion, I had to cut off the end to make it fit into the pan. The next night we’d cook the rest of it.”
“Thanks, Pop. I’ll call you back later to chat more.”
She turned back to Max and Clark, and she couldn’t stop laughing.
“Well, guys, now you know the family secret for pork roast, which involves starting with a too-small pan. And to think that I’ve been doing this for decades!” She was laughing so hard that she had to hang up.
Max turned to Clark, who looked delighted at Grandma’s and Great Grandpa’s pleasure but also puzzled about exactly what had happened.
Smiling, Max said, “Clark, you have just witnessed what happens when rules and routines get handed down without being questioned. Sometimes they no longer make sense.”
Clark still looked confused, so Max added, “Little Dude, never stop asking ‘why?’” Max added a hug and a kiss on the top of the head, at which point Clark knew that asking ‘why’ was something good and something important.
When Linda got home from work, she went directly to the laundry room to take off her scrubs, as always. Clark, as always, waited outside the door knowing he couldn’t hug her until she’d changed into her sweats. As Clark hugged her, he looked up and asked, “Mommy, why do you change when you get home? Daddy doesn’t.”
Linda explained, “Daddy works at a nice clean office. Mommy works at the clinic with sick people who carry all sorts of germs. I change so that no germs can get to you or Daddy.”
Clark puzzled over that for a bit. At dinner, Clark bragged that he’d washed the spinach all by himself but that Daddy had had to call Grandma Patsy about the roast.
Max explained what had happened.
Clark at that point said, “Daddy, I understand! The pork roast was about rules that don’t matter anymore. But Mommy changes her clothes because that’s a rule that still matters.” Clark looked tremendously pleased that he’d figured it all out.
Both Max and Linda looked at their son with pride and astonishment. Then they looked at each other with surprise and delight at how clearly a six year old could understand something so profound.
To my readers: This parable is all about how we ALL develop what I have called “relationship maps”. Sometimes those old maps serve us well; sometimes they no longer matter and can even get in the way as we move forward. Follow Clark’s example and ask, “Why?”