Way back in another lifetime, like about 25 years ago, I wrote a bi-weekly column for a tiny local newspaper. The focus was mostly about my family and the joys of raising two bright, beautiful daughters; daughters who had lots of questions, most of which I had no viable answer to.
Here is a column I wrote in 1992 that demonstrates the quandary of fielding questions about life, love, and the pursuit of wind-blown hats.
“Mommy, why is the sky blue? What makes grass?” We are barely ten miles out on a 60-some mile long trip. The truck’s radio is broken and there are four of us stuffed into the cab, with no room for the girls to lie down and sleep. I think Sarah saves up her best questions for just such occasions. I’m not sure why the sky is blue, but there are two things I know for certain: this will be a long, long trip and I will have a headache when it is over.
Sarah has entered the “how come” phase of life, where questions comprise roughly 75 percent of her conversation. Another 20 percent consists of demands for personal services such as feeding (immediately), dressing (in pink, if you please) and putting her hair into an assortment of Barbie-esque hairdos. The final five percent of her speech is a mishmash of statements ranging from “I’m not going to be your friend anymore and you can’t come to my birthday!” to “I love everyone in the whole world!”
Watching television with my preschool daughters has become a trying ordeal. As soon as the character appears on the screen I am barraged with questions. “Mommy, who is that? What is he doing?” And most importantly, “Is he a good guy or a bad guy?”
Every time lettering appears on the screen or a commercial comes on, Sarah seems to have a Pavlovian-programmed reflex to turn to me and inquire, “Is the show over now?”
It’s even more challenging if I tune in a program for the girls to watch and then leave the room. Absence is no excuse for not having all the answers. “Why was the little girl laughing? Was that her Mommy in the car?”
“I don’t know, Sarah. I didn’t watch the show and I have no idea who or what you are talking about.”
“Oh.” Sarah waits a few seconds. “Were they good guys or bad guys?”
Maybe I should feel honored that my daughters seem to regard me as omniscient, but that’s not really the case. Sometimes I flunk out on seemingly simple questions.
“Why is the sun shining on us so hot?” Sarah asked one day.
“Because it’s a hot, sunny day,” I said. Made sense to me.
“No! That’s not why!” Sarah glowered at me, as if I had told her she couldn’t wear pink anymore or something equally repugnant. I guess I could have gone into an explanation of the earth’s position relative to the sun, or theories of global warming, but I have a feeling none of that would have been the right answer either.
To compound the problem, Emily is into imitating, so if Sarah starts up playing Twenty Questions, Emily pipes in with 20 of her own. Only Emily adds a new twist to the game. She precedes each question with: “Mommy?” I wait for the question to follow. Instead she repeats herself: “Mommy??” I turn toward her to let her know that I am listening. Not good enough. “Mommy!?”
“What!” I finally respond. Only after my verbal response will she proceed with her question, if she still remembers it. If she doesn’t remember what she was going to ask, she starts over: “Mommy?”
Sometimes the questions are entertaining. They show a unique form of logic with which only young children are blessed. One windy day, the family was on an outing and my husband, who wears a hat to protect his balding scalp from the elements, was having a difficult time keeping the hat on his head. Emily was delighted to watch her daddy repeatedly chase his cap down the street.
That evening as I was brushing Emily’s hair, she asked, “Mommy?”
“What?” I responded quickly. I’m learning, you see.
“Why doesn’t Daddy have any hair?”
“Why don’t you ask Daddy?” I suggested wearily, having fielded my quota of questions for the day.
Apparently remembering the day’s earlier activities, Emily turned to her father and asked, “Daddy, did the wind blow your hair away, too?”
Even I couldn’t wait to hear the answer to that one.
The Daily Post Discover Challenge: Tough Questions