The Archive is Alive: Even Stupid Has a Purpose

Time for another recycled post! This one is courtesy of January 2011. Enjoy!

stupid question comicWhen I was teaching, I used to tell my students there was no such thing as a stupid question. 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?”


“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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20 thoughts on “The Archive is Alive: Even Stupid Has a Purpose

  1. We try our best, and failing that we smile and nod…!

    Fabulous post, thank you – and great to know that it’s not just my kids who ask the same questions CONSTANTLY! 🙂


  2. “Hey, I bet you can’t find ten yellow cars.” Haha! Kids and their questions. Every child in my life has gone through the exact types of questions you mentioned … from asking when they already know to just plain using you for noise. That booger one’s hard though—wonder if there was an ounce of truth to your initial answer? J/K!!! 🙂 Loving these resurrected posts!


    1. (didn’t hit return, but post… somehow?)… but, my point was (ironically) that answering my kids’ endless questions has lowered my IQ by many points, over the years! Seriously. I might have been able to do complex math, at one time… 😉


  3. This really puts things into perspective for me. C doesn’t ask questions yet; she usually just points and declares one-word imperatives. I have so much to look forward to 😉


  4. I remember that stage! I have a teenager…who only and always asks one question: where is FILL IN THE BLANK. Actually, that’s not entirely true. He also asks “Mom, can you pick me up/drop me off at FILL IN BLANK. I think both of these are dumb.

    I love that you’ve taken stalk of what they ask. This might come in handy later on in life.


    1. Oooo, you bring up a good point. Hopefully I can remember these things when I need them (which is doubtful). And yes, I know when the time comes, I will be annoyed by both of those questions your son asks. Actually, I already get “Where’s my…?” It reminds me of when I used to be a checker at a grocery store and people used to ask me how much some random item was. I was like, yes…I know how much all one billion things in this store cost off the top of my head. Similarly, yes, I know where every item belonging to every family member in this house is at all times. Geez.


  5. Ha! They may be driving you somewhat insane, but oh they are entertaining!

    A piece in the NZ Herald talked about a group of children who were watching a butterfly come out of a chrysalis. After watching for a little while, one asked, “Has it downloaded yet?”

    Oh deary me!


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