My oldest son rarely asks
questions. He's quiet, introspective and very much an observer who picks up on
things by watching the world around him. Friends told me I was “lucky” he was
so quiet because they had kids who talked nonstop. Then my younger son started
talking—and not just talking, but asking questions.
Questions for which I never had enough answers. In some cases, questions for which no
answer even exists.
"I was born to ask questions" he told his father
the other day, and it's the truth. I once counted and he asked 23 consecutive
questions on the same topic (what happened to the dinosaurs?) in less time than
it took me to make the 10-minute drive to his preschool.
My son’s constant questioning
of everything nearly drives me mad, so I’ve had to come up with ways to deflect
his never-ending stream of questions while also being careful not to dampen his
curiosity and enthusiasm. If you’re living with a little askhole, please know you are
not alone. We will survive! I have been told he will eventually grow out of
this stage and become convinced I don’t know anything at all, and I’m not sure
if that will be a relief or a little sad (I’m leaning toward relief right now).
Here are my coping strategies
when the questions get to be too much:
When we are on a deadline
Whether it’s bedtime or the drive to school, I
tell him he can ask five questions about something and the rest will have to be saved until later. He carefully counts out his questions and likes having to
ponder what he wants to ask. (And he never, ever forgets that he has questions saved for another time.)
must give him a real answer to his question, I reach down deep and pull the very
last trick from my bag and say ... “Ask your father.”
When he’s asked the same question before
I remind him we’ve talked about the topic. “Remember,
we talked about which things in the house run on electricity,” I told him the
other night when we lost power during a storm. “Do you remember what they are?”
By turning it around and asking him a
question, he gets to show off his knowledge and good memory. It tides him over … for
When we’re in the middle of watching a TV show
or movie and he asks a plot question
“Wait and see,” doesn’t work for long, so I’ve added, “It’s
a surprise” (which he loves) and “What do you think should happen?” to encourage
his storytelling skills. Sure, we miss part of the show while he explains what
Rocky and Rubble should do next, but I’m OK with that (plus, it takes way less time than answering his millions of questions in a row).
When he asks a social or moral question
Again, I turn it around on him and ask him why
he thinks people shouldn’t throw trash out their car window or why a store
employee wouldn’t acknowledge him. Both he and his brother are very interested
in social mores and I encourage them to people watch, maybe because I’m a
writer and I like observing human behavior myself.
When he asks something a 6-year-old knows
If it’s a topic that’s in older brother’s
wheelhouse, such as the finer points of Minecraft or all the names of Santa’s
reindeer, I point him in the 6-year-old’s direction. Little brother gets the
answer(s) he wants and big brother feels like an expert.
When it’s something that’s beyond my knowledge
When he hits me with the complex questions
like, “Yes, I know there was a Big Bang that made the earth and everything, but
where did it come from and how do the scientists know?” we turn to the library and the internet
for answers. Even though he can’t read yet, bringing home books about the
universe, solar system, dinosaurs and prehistoric man or showing him a science website gives him visuals to help
answer some of his questions. Oh, and I learn something, too!
When I have finally reached the end of my rope
and I am all out of answers
I say, “It’s magic.” I know, I know, I’m awful. But when he can’t be deflected
or redirected, this is all I can come up with besides, “I don’t know.” When I
use the magic answer, my little boy’s eyes get big and he gets excited and he is
quiet—blessedly quiet!—for 10 minutes while he contemplates the magic. And then … he will begin asking
questions about the magic: where it comes from, how it works, how long it
lasts, whether it applies to other things, whether everyone knows about the
magic. And I will sigh and realize I have put him off as long as I can and I
must give him a real answer to his question and I reach down deep and pull the very
last trick from my bag and say ... “Ask your father.” Hey, it’s not the worst
answer in the world—his father is a teacher!
While I could do with a few
less questions every day, I love my little askhole and his voracious appetite
for knowledge. He has such a good memory that I know the day will come when I will
be the one asking him the questions.