“Mom, are all questions good questions?”
I didn’t have to give that (good) question much thought today. I know the pat teacher answer of, “The only dumb question is the one you are too afraid to ask.” But since fear of asking a question has never entered Chica’s oh-so-curious head, I knew that was a lesson for another time.
“The only questions that aren’t good are the ones you already know the answer to,” I told her quickly and confidently.
I’ve been pondering my answer today since I gave it. Pondering answers….that’s the kind of thing you can do on vacation when your to-do list consists of feed your children, feed yourself, rest, and repeat…and you have Grandma there to help you get a childfree moment or two.
I can pinpoint the event that sparked both her question and my answer. It’s one of those crazy-mom moments that I sorely wish I could relive and do differently. At the beginning of the summer, Chica had learned how to write her last name, and we were headed to the library to get her very own library card. We had been building up the excitement of this for several hours, yet she still asked on the way there, “Mom, where are we going?”
At first I assumed she was kidding and teasing me in her quirky, four year old way. “You know where we are going,” I teased her back. Well, apparently either she really didn’t know or she was really holding tightly to this joke of hers. She kept repeating that she didn’t know, and I just kept insisting that she did. If I could hit the replay button, here’s where I would just say, “The library,” and be done with it. Instead some crazy woman took over my body and I found myself screaming down 5th Street, “YOU KNOW where we are going. Tell me RIGHT NOW or I’m turning this car around and we are going NOWHERE.” Sheesh. What was that all about? I definitely didn’t choose my battles wisely that day.
So I still have no idea whether or not she actually knew where we were going, but I took that opportunity, once I had calmed down about 20 notches to talk about how annoying it is to people to ask questions you already know the answer to. I had no idea when it was all finished if she understood what I was saying, but seizing the teachable moment helped me resume an attitude appropriate for an occasion as momentous as getting one’s own library card. Crazy woman went back into hiding, and cool and calm mom carried on with normal life.
So when she asked the question that she did today and quickly accepted my answer, I knew her little brain had in fact internalized at least a bit of our conversation that day on the way to the library. With any luck, she internalized more of the “how not to be annoying” lesson and less of the “my mom’s a wacko” lesson.
So here I am back to pondering my answer. If you’ve ever had a four year old or you’ve even just spent four minutes with a four year old, you know that the questions are incessant. Do I, in fact, believe in the value of her curiosity enough to give her permission to ask freely? I think I do, so I guess I need to start working on my response when the river starts flowing. Often after the fifth or sixth why question in a row, I snap back, “Why do you ask so many questions?!?!” That doesn’t exactly send the message that all questions are good questions, huh?
Then what about the questions that you already know the answer to? Is there ever a time when these questions are actually good? Maybe there’s value in hearing another person’s explanation if the listener is truly open. Maybe there are times we have to ask ourselves honest questions that we already know the answer to, just so we can hear the answer. I’m not sure I can translate all that into four year old speak, so I’ll save those edits to my answer for another time and place.
I leave you with a reminder that questions aren’t always as they seem…
For Chica’s 73rd question of the day, she randomly asked, “Mom, what does cut mean?” Really, Chica? Really? I nearly launched into my rant about being annoying, when something made me decide to give her a chance. I answered her question with a question. “Where did you hear it?”
“Last night, when you were reading me that Pinkalicious School Rules book, it said the unicorn couldn’t cut the line with the other kids.” Brilliant question, Chica. Good for you.
Now…just try answering that one without using the word butt. : )