Last week, A.Cooper spoke to a small group of young mothers at our church and in her list of things that moms do was the phrase, ” Champion of 100 ways to answer the question ‘why?’.” I so wish I was that but I have a champion of the other kind in our house – the one who asks the question why.
From a routine good morning to trip to the aquarium can be turned into a series of questions. Here is a sample:
-why the morning is good?
because you are with me and I am happy!
-why am I with you?
because you were born to me
-why was I born ?
Now that’s an existential question too hard to answer!
Look a shark ! swimming there.
why the shark is swimming?
because the sharks need to move in the water.
Why? they can’t sit still? their momma will not tell them to sit down?
Of course she is referring to me telling her to stop running around and sit still.
Before I became a Mom, I thought I would honestly and truthfully answer the questions my pre-schooler posed to me. That I would never give them silly answers or fabricate excuses to avoid their questions. I had had some degree of success with my little nephews and nieces but there were other things at play. I now suspect they quit asking questions out of sheer boredom of my tedious answers or that they got distracted into other games and not because of my answering prowess. I was naive then. Apart from distraction, there is nothing that would satiate the curiosity of a little adult. Every bit of a simplified response can lead to five more questions and kids can be tireless.
I have a love-hate relationship with my daughter’s questions. I love that her mind is curious and she looks to me for answers but sometimes, my answers have to act like conversation-enders which are clues for the kid to stop asking. Here are my top five question-killers and attention deflectors:
5. I have to find the answer in a book- I use this when the question is related to any image I can find in a book however remotely related. I have an illustrated dictionary which I often pick up with the thought of finding an illustration about something related to the question. May be the size of the book and the small print will dissuade her from asking more questions. Answer to ‘Why do birds fly?’ can be found in the dictionary or in a story which had one bird illustration. I cross my fingers and hope there would something in there which would capture her imagination and hopefully won’t have questions about. Though I must admit here that I have had lot of fun actually searching for answers with her. looking for best illustrations and explaining them to her.
4. I’ll tell you later- This only works when I am in the middle of some task like cleaning or cooking, not when I am doing other tasks like folding the laundry or doing dishes. My daughter has randomly decided that some tasks are more important than others. It is a short term fix though because often my daughter remembers her question when I am done with the task at hand.
3. that’s the way things are- this reply works best when questions relate to the natural world or how things were made and I can elude to a factory, a designer and even God for how things came about and function. This has given me some good opportunity to talk about faith, design and intentionality.
2. I don’t know- This is often coupled with ” you can ask dad when he comes home”. I think this is a last resort of sorts but this has the biggest risk of backfiring. If repeated often the kids would no longer come to you with their questions. I can already imagine my daughter turning this on me in her teenage years. ” you don’t know anything mom!”
1.You’ll understand when you grow bigger.- This was my mother’s go to for difficult questions. She would usually say that even if she answered my question , I would not be able to understand it because it was too big for my brain. She would later also tell me some of the other things I would be able to do when i am bigger like lifting up a bucketful of water or finish a big mango all by myself. This is the best attention deflector for me where I can ask her to tell me what she wants to do when she grows bigger.
There some other responses that I have tried as well. Honest to goodness answers work the best and seeing those tiny lightbulbs going on in our child’s understudying is a feeling unparalleled.