Parenting

My Son Has Learned to Ask Questions—and I'm Determined to Answer Every Single One

My son has discovered how to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. Every trip to the grocery store or the playground or the bathroom now comes with a soundtrack, his little outstretched finger jabbing the air to get me to look.

“What is that?” It’s a Christmas tree “What is that?” A moving truck “What doing?” It’s delivering furniture. “What’s that?” It’s a bird. “What is that?” A bird! “What … what is that bird?” Oh, it’s a sparrow. “Sparrow.  Sparrow.  Sparrow … What’s that?”

Sometimes the answers are easy. A car, a bus, a garbage can. Sometimes they’re harder. A man selling … fruit. Maybe. It’s hard to tell. A lady wearing … a plastic bag on her head. It could just be her hair. I’m not sure.

“I don’t know,” isn’t an option. I’m the mommy. I have to know. Or sometimes I’m not sure what he’s pointing at. Which is also not allowed. That thing? Or, that thing? This thing? I do a lot of pointing too.

We also have to discuss what random people are doing. What this guy doing? that little pointing finger leaves no question as to who we’re talking about. “He’s picking his nose,” I reply as quietly as I can. “Picking nose?!” he shrieks in delight, aiming that pointing finger at his own nostril. Can we please get off the bus now?

This newfound ability leaves me feeling many things: exhausted, confused, amused, embarrassed. But, more than anything else, I find it incredibly moving. My little boy who, from the moment he was born, stared at the world through wide, blue eyes as if drinking it in, trying to digest it all, is finally able to ask me all about it.

There has been no doubt in my mind, ever since he was a tiny baby, that my son was eager to learn about the world. He was a quiet baby (when he wasn’t screaming his head off for one reason or another). Not much babbling or cooing. Just those huge, staring eyes, darting around the room, or locked on something interesting.

“He’s so serious,” people would say. Yes, sometimes. In new situations, mostly, when there were so many things to examine and observe and wonder about. I felt for him, then. Unable to do anything to let me know that he was hungry for information. So I would talk to him about what we saw, hoping my explanations were satisfying the questions he had but couldn’t voice. Couldn’t even really form in his baby brain, but were there nonetheless.

But now, oh now, he can ask me! It’s like he’s been saving it all up for me. Every single thing he ever wanted to know about but couldn’t ask. What’s this, Mommy? And this? And this? And this? What’s it doing? What’s it called? What’s it for?

And even though it feels trying, sometimes. And even though I really don’t know sometimes. And even though I’d just like a minute to think without having to try to figure out what he’s asking sometimes. I answer him. Every time. Every single time. Because I’m his only source of information right now. And he needs to know.

I don’t need him to know that that’s a sparrow. But he does. He’s been wondering that for months now. Ever since we moved here and they’re all over the place. I don’t need him to know that that’s a moving truck. But he does. He’s seen those things all over the place and what the heck is furniture doing inside a truck? I don’t need him to know what most of this stuff is. But he does. Because he’s been living in this world for a while now, and it’s high time he figured it all out.

I imagine how frustrating it must be to not know these things. To look up and not know where the moon is (it’s daytime, it only comes out at night). Or what that lit-up shape on the lamppost is (a Christmas decoration). Or what that guy is eating (Doritos.  Not for toddlers). And while it may not be important exactly (we’re not all going to die if he doesn’t know where the moon is at this particular moment) it sure is frustrating. For him. So I tell him.

I don’t have all the answers. But, for now, I have the answers he needs. I think I’ll enjoy that while it lasts.