My son, G, is four. Like most four year-olds he asks a lot of questions, so many questions! Questions about what I am doing, where we are going, and why he can’t have a cookie for breakfast.
Sometimes his inquisitiveness is so adorable I want to squish his little cheeks. But to be honest, the relentless questions and negotiations drive me to the brink of insanity.
I know I bring this unnecessary stress onto myself. I try so hard to be a good mom and answer all of his questions, even the seemingly obvious ones. However, when I do answer G’s questions they are often followed by more questions, and we tumble down the rabbit hole of never ending “whys”. I grew up in a household where the phrase “because I said so…” was used constantly. I vividly remember telling myself that if I ever had children I would try to use this phrase or its cousin “because” as infrequently as possible.
G wants to know everything: how things work, why he can’t wear shorts outside in the winter or watch tv before school. These questions have led to wonderful discussions and many teachable moments.
G has asthma and a few weeks ago I took him to his four-month asthma checkup at the University of Vermont Medical Center’s Children’s Specialty Center. We pulled into the parking garage and eagerly he rushed to the elevator to push the call button. The next floor up, a middle-aged man hooked up to an oxygen tank slowly stepped onto the elevator. My son immediately took interest in the tank that was being towed along by the man. In his high pitched little voice, he yelled “MOMMY WHAT’S THAT” pointing to the tank. I politely smiled at the man and in response, he gave me a look conveying “it’s ok- I know he is only a child.” I looked down at G and explained that the tank held oxygen to help his body breathe. I reminded G that just like he sometimes has a hard time breathing and he needs his inhaler, the tank helps the man breathe just like G’s inhaler helps him. Without hesitation, my son looked at the man and said “I have one too… that help me!”
So often, it is easier to brush off or ignore our children’s questions. We don’t always stop to see the impact our answers can have on how their little mind will view the world around them. My straightforward answer to G’s simple question allowed him to form a common bond with a complete stranger. I still lose patience with the rabbit hole of never ending questions, but since that encounter in the elevator, I try harder to see the value in each question my son asks. Even more, I see the important lessons and teachings we can provide in every answer.