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Most parents don’t look forward to the day their child asks about the facts of life. They aren’t sure exactly how to explain them without causing irreparable harm. After all, telling a tender little one that everybody has to pay taxes and death is inevitable is likely to scar them for life! While these may be facts of life, the idiom originally meant the facts of procreation.
The word life has so many meanings. Most people immediately think about the expanse of an individual’s time for birth to death. The more philosophical understand life is broader and deeper than that. While individuals die, life continues through their offspring. Life isn’t just a what; it’s also a how.
To children especially, the miracle of how human beings got here is mind-boggling. When they tug on mommy’s skirt or daddy’s shirt and gaze at them with utter innocence, most parents fear what will come out of their mouths: “Where do babies come from?” The facts of life they’re looking for are about that how.
Most parents explain, explain, and explain with hard, cold facts. The mother’s ovary releases an egg, which the father’s sperm fertilizes. The fertilized egg attaches to the side of the mother’s uterus and grows into an embryo. After nine months, she goes into labor, and the baby is born.
Nice, clear information lacking in any emotional discomfort might work for the parent, but the facts of life the kids are after is messier. They want the why as well as the how and the what. Unfortunately, the answer to why things happen is what everyone wishes they could figure out, but no one really can.
The mysteriousness of why things happen the way they do, whether it’s conception or job loss, falling in love or getting dumped, is really just another fact of life. Perhaps it’s only car bumpers that really understand this truth well enough to try to explain it to the rest of the world when they proclaim, “Stuff Happens.” It does, and that little life fact can be very hard to take.
Perhaps it all boils down to one overreaching truth. Regardless of an individual’s determination, hard work, or beliefs, there is a degree to which no one is in complete control of what happens in their own lives. Fortunately, it’s another fact of life, and one just as important, that life does go on, and what is dark today will be bright tomorrow or the day after.