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Disagreeing a big feat for a young boy

"Daddy?"

The voice held a questioning tone, like someone talking in deep thought. I looked up from the magazine I was reading to see Sky sitting on the living-room floor, looking at me, blinking intently, deep in thought. You never know what's going to come out of an 8-year-old kid's mouth.

"Did you know Bigfoot is real?" he said.

"Is that right?" I said.

And just like that, I found myself suddenly whisked into that age-old debate that's been around since fathers started having sons: Bigfoot, fact or fiction?

"It's true," Sky said, insisting. "He exists."

"That's ridiculous," I said. "Where'd you hear that?"

"It was on Discovery Channel," he said, smiling because he knew I caught him watching that evil television. The one over at his grandma's house, no doubt. (Yes, we're one of those wacky families that doesn't watch TV. It's more a reaction to the endless ads and not due so much to the programs, though I must say I don't feel like I'm missing much.)

"Oh, well then," I said, "if it was on TV, then it must be true."

Sky paused, building his conviction. It's interesting to watch a young person developing the ability to hold his side of an argument -- even if it means energy put toward defending the sasquatch.

"They found proof," he said. "Really, I saw it. It was in Canada. They put down this big strip with nails in it and he stepped on it."

"How do you know it wasn't a bear?"

"It was in the shape of an ape's footprint," he said, "but it was bigger than an ape. And they don't have those in Canada."

"So an ape stepped on some nails and left a print. Big deal."

"It wasn't a regular ape," he said. "It was an ape that walks on two legs."

"OK then," I said, "if there are Bigfoots running around, how come we never find their bones?"

"They don't last very long," he said. "They disappear pretty fast."

"That's funny," I said. "So we can find dinosaurs from millions of years ago, but we can't find Bigfoots that are living now. You know, I saw a movie once where aliens died and their bodies disappeared immediately. Maybe it's like that."

Sky furrowed his brow, wrinkled his nose.

"I can believe in Bigfoot if I want," he said.

"Yes, you can," I said. "So let me get this straight: You believe in Bigfoot, but you don't believe in God?

"You mean an old man watching us from the clouds," he said, rolling his eyes. "I don't think so."

(Side note: As you were reading this, perhaps you noticed that Bigfoot keeps appearing with a capital "B." That's because my Word document keeps capitalizing the letter on its own. So, if it's any consolation, Microsoft apparently believes in Bigfoot, too. Weirder: the Word program doesn't capitalize the "G" in god. That all strikes me as a little odd. Just some food for thought.)

As Sky and I debated, Murphy abandoned his art project and hurried over to us. Big brother was hogging up all the action, and Murphy wanted in on this highbrow discussion.

"Daddy, you know what?" Murphy said.

"What's that, buddy?"

"There are a lot of places in the world called the middle of nowhere," Murphy said.

"There are?" I said.

"Yeah," he said. "Wherever there's a lot of weeds and no houses, they call it the middle of nowhere. And nobody lives there."

"That's true," I said. "And if somebody moved there, they'd change the name to somewhere."

"Uh huh," Murphy said.

Satisfied he'd made his point, Murphy ran off and returned to his project. I looked back at Sky and smiled.

"So, what about the Loch Ness Monster?" I said. "You believe in that, too?"

Sky's face lit up.

"Oh, I believe in Nessie," he said, smiling.

"What!" I said. "Where'd you hear that name?"

"It was on a special," he said, lowering his voice, embarrassedly mumbling the next words. "On Discovery Channel."

"That's it," I said. "You're not going over to Grandma's house anymore. All you do there is watch TV and eat junk food."

"I know, it's great," he said. "Daddy, it's OK if I believe in something and you don't."

I looked at him and squinted my eyes, pretending I didn't like what he was saying. Once there was a time he'd pretty much agree with everything I said, unless it involved him doing some type of work.

But lately, he's been honing the art of disagreeing with me. And he's liking it. I know someday that'll probably drive me crazy, but for now I think it's pretty cool. Besides, it's only Bigfoot and Nessie we're talking about here. At least he doesn't believe in something totally out there like ... well, you know what I mean.

Bee staff writer Ty Phillips can be reached at tphillips@modbee.com or 874-5716.

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