When my kids were little, they had a million questions. I’m sure yours do (or did), too. It’s what kids are made for – endless curiosity for figuring out the world around them. As exhausting as it can be, I tried hard not to discourage them so they would never lose that curious spirit.
To that end, I tried to answer as many questions as I could, and even when I couldn’t, I would answer with encouragement – “That’s a good question,” “I don’t know, but let’s look it up,” or “What do you think?”
It seems to me that there are three main kinds of questions kids ask.
Type 1: Please-Let-Me-Poke-My-Eye-Out-With-This-Rusty-Fork Questions.
The most famous of these never-ending questions is the toddler standard – “WHY?” I swear it was the fourth word my children learned to speak. Dada. Mama. No! WHY?
Please put your shoes on. Why?
Don’t pull the dog’s ears. Why?
Put your toys in this bin. Why?
Let’s eat lunch. Why?
Also in this category – “What’s for dinner?” I get asked this question eleventy thousand times a week. Or maybe it just seems like it with the other four humans in my house asking me every single day since forever.
Type 2: Silly Questions
Better (or worse? I’m not sure.) than the poke-your-eye-out questions are the silly questions. There are no real answers to these, but they do lead to interesting discussions.
What if it were raining cowboys? (Actual quote from my middle child, Facebook memory on April 1, 2012)
What if all of our furniture was on the ceiling?
What if frogs tasted like pop tarts?
What if we woke up one day and we were purple?
Type 3: Unanswerable Questions
I’m now in the stage of parenting where almost all of the questions my children ask me are of the unanswerable variety. (Spoiler alert to young parents: there are still a million questions.)
Where should I go to college?
Is dating worth it because it seems like a whole lot of work and heartbreak?
What should I be when I grow up?
How do we solve racism/poverty/income inequity/climate change?
Will the world ever feel safe enough for me to have children?
Here’s the thing. Even if I think I have the answers to these questions, it doesn’t matter. I don’t get to tell them. They have to find their own answers to these questions. No one, not even their mother, can tell them these answers.
The answers are in the search.
My parenting job at this stage is to remind them of all the tools and skills they have to go on their own hunt for answers.
Talking about all those silly questions taught them that brainstorming, creativity, and hashing it out at the dinner table were training to find answers to unanswerable questions.
All the times we went to the library, Google or a trusted expert with a question taught them that research, knowledge, and being teachable are vital tools in their search.
All the times I kept my sigh of frustration inside and instead actually told them WHY for the 100th time in one day taught them that their curiosity was a gift to be honored and followed.
Ask. Seek. Find, my children.