Alfie is, by nature, a secret learner. He likes to turn a concept over in his mind and try and idea on for size before he brings it out into the cold light of day.
For us, as parents distracted by juvenile female carnage most days, it can sometimes appear to us like Alfie just woke up one morning and vomited knowledge.
Last week, we were sitting at the dinner table having a fairly average mealtime. Olive was crying because her water was in the wrong cup, Esme was trying to gross me out my doing disgusting and unspeakable things with her food, and Keith was trying to keep some kind of order, using a tone of voice that clearly indicated he knew that he was fighting a losing battle.
Through this chaos, Alfie suddenly piped up:
"D'ya know, obsidian is lava that has mixed with water and cooled very fast."
Keith and I looked at each other with suspicion, and then at Alfie with scepticism.
"Say that again, Alfie"
Affecting a look of indifference, he pushed some vegetables around his plate and repeated himself.
"Obsidian. It's made from lava that has cooled very fast".
I'll be honest, I fished out my phone and did a search for the definition of obsidian at this point. It's not that I have an inherent mistrust of the things that my children tell me, but this was about as far outside our usual sphere of existence as I could imagine him getting. I would have reacted in a similar way if he had rocked up to me and recited the Lord's Prayer in flawless Mandarin.
It turns out, Alfie's is almost a dictionary definition, which led to my two default follow-up questions in all matters parenting
1. Where had he even heard that word?
2. What kind of monstrous mother am I, that I instantly doubt my child?
The answer to the first question was "Minecraft". Because OF COURSE Minecraft. Apparently, you make swords from obsidian in Minecraft. They're hard to make and precious, and Stampy told him all about it. Thank you Stampy for delivering yet another teachable moment to my first-born. Should Alfie ever find himself giving an acceptance speech to some great academic institution, I will make sure you are rightly credited as his first, and greatest, inspiration.
I'm more than happy to play a supporting role to Stampy and Minecraft because my real joy comes in being a partner in Alfie's learning, rather than his leader.
Alfie and I talked about why this weird pixelated world he inhabits might pick glass to make a sword. We both thought it an odd choice, especially considering the amount of glass our family can get through in an average week. We looked at how obsidian might be different, and if those differences might be applied to changing other materials too.
I'm such a knowledge geek, these learning adventures often leave me with thoughts buzzing round my head for hours and days.
One such thought jumped me later that evening (in the shower if you must know) about why the name Obsidian seemed so familiar. As any self-respecting Brit will know, is from Ripper Street which has a shadowy company by that same name. Which is how, the following evening, I came to be explaining the concept of a metaphor, and how obsidian being an opaque glass was analogous to the shady dealings of Obsidian Estates.
I'm not sure how much of this he took in because at the time we happened to be walking home on a stunningly clear night, and we both kept getting side tracked by the milky way, whether there might be life on other planets, and the concept of infinity.