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.
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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.)
(When) I 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 a while.
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.