Even Stupid Has a Purpose

Photo by Kyle James via Flickr (license)
Photo by Kyle James via Flickr (license)

When I was teaching, I used to tell my students there was no such thing as a stupid question. But let’s be honest. There are stupid questions. But I could never say that to my students, lest I get an angry phone call from some parent about how I had forever damaged the delicate psyche of her daughter, who obviously had no concern for my delicate psyche when she slept through my class and told me that reading Twain was a boring waste of time. Just to be clear, this probably would have been the same parent who told me that she did not pay good tuition money for her daughter to get a “C” in my class. Well, maybe you should chat with your daughter about that, Mrs. I-Prove-I’m-A-Good-Parent-By-Bullying-People-Into-Giving-My-Child-What-She-Wants. Because I’m guessing that grade had a little bit more to do with the fact that she finds Twain a boring waste of time and less about my teaching skills.

But I digress. And I am starting to worry that it is not so healthy to harbor such bitterness after being out of the classroom for six years now.

So let me get back to the real reason for this post: stupid questions. Lately (and by lately I mean the past four years since Grace has been able to hold a conversation) I have been feeling as though a good 45% of my day is spent fielding questions from my kids. And considering the rest of my average day is spent in a combination of doing laundry, washing dishes, picking up the same revolving clutter, driving in my car, and tripping over my dog whose only real talent is knowing the absolute worst place to lay down, all with the frequent background noise of PBS Kids, these questions frankly annoy the crud out of me most of the time. Because they are stupid.

I know, I know. I am being harsh. Certainly the teacher in me can appreciate the honest curiosity in my kids. An inquisitive mind is a highly valued characteristic which most parents wish for their children. It is one of those things you hear moms on the playground boasting about: “Dakota is just so curious about the world. The other day he was completely enthralled with knowing all about how caterpillars turn into butterflies.” But that is just code for the reality that little Dakota drove his mom to the edge of insanity by asking a barrage crazy inquiries like “Does the caterpillar poop out the butterfly?” and “Can a caterpillar turn into a Power Ranger?” along with loosely related questions such as “If I turned into a monster would l still need to take a bath?”

Sometimes curiosity kills the cat…or the very last thread of patience the cat was playing with.

So what, do you ask, are the specific question marks that have been pestering me so much that I felt compelled to “blog it out?” Here are the ones that make the most frequent appearances:

Michael is heavy into the what’s this? phase. But he has categories. There is the what’s this? when he genuinely does not know what something is. The answer is usually followed by “but what’s this?”…in reference to the EXACT SAME THING he just asked about, which means he apparently did not like my first answer. I have learned not to simply give him the same answer a second time. That just ends up in a vicious cycle of “what’s this – it’s a can opener – but what’s this? – it’s a can opener – but what’s this – it’s a can open-oh for the love of all that is holy and sane! IT’S A THING THAT OPENS CANS!”

Then there is the what’s this? he asks even though he knows what it actually is. I think he does this because, even at the age of three-and-a-half, he enjoys feeling as if he knows better than his mother:

“What’s this?”

“You know what that is buddy. It’s a Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

“No, mom. It’s a T-Rex.”

Oh. Well, excuse me.

There is also a subcategory of this particular what’s this? where he asks the question about what he THINKS he knows the answer to:

“What’s this?”

“It’s a mango.”

“No, it’s an apple.”

“No, it’s a mango buddy.”

“I think it’s an apple.”

“Fine. It’s an apple.”

I’ll have to remember this particular habit of his when he is in high school, and I am tempted to threaten his teacher with the statement I’m not paying all this tuition for him to be getting a “C” in Biology. Because he likely earned that “C” by insisting a chromosome was actually a Cheeto.

You would think my three-and-a-half-year-old would corner the market on annoying questions, but Grace may just have him beat. Her six-year-old mind has obviously been grappling with intense moral questions. I know this because on an almost daily basis I am treated to a host of “Would you rather (fill in the blank) or kill me?” questions.

Would you rather be blind or kill me? Would you rather shoot a police officer or kill me? Would you rather break our car or kill me? Would you rather pick up a crumb or kill me? 

I kid you not; these are all questions that came out of her mouth. After entertaining her for about two or three of these, I always look at her and say, “Grace, the answer will always be whatever is NOT killing you.” Although one time I did catch her off guard by answering that I’d rather kill her than eat her brother’s boogers in hopes it would stop the questions. No luck. She didn’t believe me.

The last question that really gets my goat is one both of my children just LOVE to ask me, in the car, usually in traffic or other perilous driving conditions : What’s this song about? I can usually satisfy Michael with a simple answer like “love” or “dancing.” Though sometimes he will start with, “What’s love?” in which case you can refer to the previous paragraphs. But Grace’s relentless inquiries make me realize that even the songs I think are rather innocuous are about subjects I would rather not discuss with my six-year-old on the way to her Catholic school.

“Mom, what’s this song about?”

“Love.”

“But she says it’s a bad romance. That’s not very nice. Why does she say that?”

“Um, I don’t know. Lady GaGa wears meat for a dress. Why would you expect her songs to make sense? Hey, I bet you can’t find ten yellow cars.”

Are all these questions stupid? No. I realize it is just one of the vehicles my children are using to navigate through the world. And I guess on the positive side, they are looking to ME for the answers, not someone else…because when they look to me, I can control the answers. So despite how annoying the constant questioning is, I better keep providing answers so they do not go looking elsewhere when the questions become more hard-hitting.  Maybe reassuring Grace day after day after day…after day…that I would rather do anything else in the world but kill her will help her realize that I would do anything for her, and that she can turn to me when she has questions she can not answer.

So bring on the questions, you little rugrats. Even the stupid ones. If having the answers to the stupid questions convinces them later on that I will have the answers to the tough questions, then I did something right. The right thing isn’t always easy, and the easy thing isn’t always right.

So what does a good mom do? Well, that’s a stupid question.

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8 Responses

  1. Suelly,

    I literally spit my water of out my mouth when I read Grace’s questions “Would you rather -blank-, or kill me?” That is absolutely hilarious! Thanks for making my workday go by a little faster 🙂

    Gulley Girl

    • Glad I could help out! Rather, glad my daughter could help out. I know I say this all the time, but we really do need to get together soon. Now that both kids are back in school and I’m almost finished subbing, I’ll look at my calendar.

  2. John Powell

    I loved this one. How does Kurt handle the issue of questions? I only have one question for you…why are you listening to Lady Gaga in the car?

    • Very good question. The real question should be why am I listening to Lady Gaga EVER? Ha! I’m usually pretty good about channel surfing on the radio to make sure we’re listeing to more kid-friendly music in the car (we listen to a lot of KLOU…but that’s also for me!), but I’m not always so vigilant. So I’ve been finding more and more that I have to explain meanings of songs to my curious little girl…and there have definitely been some awkward questions. Overall, I know she is going to be exposed to all that stuff sooner or later (she would know who Lady Gaga is regardless if I ever let her hear it), and I’d rather be the one to teach her appreciation for the music without buying into all the messages. As far as Kurt goes, he doesn’t field NEAR as many questions as me, but he does like to answer the question with a question a lot.

  3. Wow! I admit I remember lots of questions but I don’t rememer my answers. Hopefully, my kids won’t either! Answers to questions don’t always come when you need them, they often come later! The rapport with your kids counts now! Keep up the good mom-ing!

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