Listening to All the Questions

We were at the pool the other day and Bea started asking a random woman about a million questions – What are you wearing? Why? What are you doing? Why? Do you want to swim with me? Why? The woman, who was trying to relax, was incredibly patient and answered Bea’s questions with a laugh. Midway through, she asked me if Bea was about three years old.

Why yes – how did you know? The stream of questions fills our day and it can be both amazing to play a part in helping Bea discover her world and equally frustrating when I just want to pack up and get in the car.

Taking notes on her questions
Taking notes on her questions

Some questions I take the time to answer correctly and with reason, even if we’re in a rush. These are the bigger questions – the ones about how our world works, why we as a society do things a certain way, and why we as a family have chosen to do things. (Not that Bea asks in those terms, but I have learned to quickly categorize the nature of her questions.) Other questions, like why we have to wear shoes in the store, are quicker answers. I’ll admit, I’ve even resorted to the Because I said so answer – one I vowed I would never give to my children.

Being part of this process has been amazing. When we explained why a man was holding a sign on the side of the road, we were able to link it to the time we gave our leftover dinner to a hungry man and then link that to the reason daddy goes to work every day. And now, weeks later, Bea is still making those connections. It shows me how worth the time and effort it is to stop and really answer the big questions.

I realize that, even though I attribute constant questioning to preschoolers, I have never really stopped questioning. Perhaps I don’t do it aloud and I find most of my answers through books, articles, blogs, and trusted friends, but I still am always questioning my world.

I credit my parents with this trait. While I’m sure it was exhausting, they always made space for questions well beyond our preschool years. When I would come home from high school Bible study, filled with more questions than when I arrived, my parents would listen. Sometimes they’d offer an answer; sometimes they’d let me grapple with it myself; sometimes they’d process with me. When I would come home from the Sunday sermon, my prayer request form filled with questions and (what I felt to be) discrepancies in the sermon, my parents would listen. Every morning, I’d read the newspaper with my dad (the morning person of my parents) and we’d question the politics, letters to the editor, and local policies covered each day.

What I learned from my parents, now that I’m a parent myself, is the power of listening to questions. Most of my questions were not good questions. They were typical adolescent questions, helping me develop my own opinion apart from my family’s and my church’s. This process was awkward and filled with mediocre questions. But, by allowing me to ask all my questions, my parents helped me weed through the poor ones and hone in on the good ones.

I still ask too many questions. Most of them aren’t world-changing, big important questions. Most are just me processing through the most recent news story or book I’ve read. I’ve learned, though, that asking a lot of questions leads us to asking good questions. As I ask more and more, I pay attention to the good ones – the ones that have the possibility of changing the world, even if just a little bit.

And, as Bea questions more and more, I want to encourage her to keep asking. Many of her questions are unanswerable, but I will do my best to help her discover answers to the ones that can be found. I want her to begin learning to weed out the good questions – the ones that help her change her world.

Are you a questioner? If you’re around littles, how do you answer all the questions?

Linked with the High Calling’s community theme: The Power of Good Questions.

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8 thoughts on “Listening to All the Questions

  1. I love all the questions, it keep me alert to give “real” answers. Of, course, not all questions are either easily answered or even have explainable answers! It’s fun to see where each question takes the conversation.

    1. It’s all about the process! Which can be awkward in itself…. But, I think when we stop asking questions, that’s when the world will really go downhill.

  2. I’m not much of a questioner…a fair chunk of my life was taken up by concepts like ‘compartmentalized’ and ‘need to know’, and in spite of Hollywood’s feelings on the matter…these were vital to keeping people alive.

    You can’t tell what you don’t know, and even the most obtuse of our enemies realize that that the line animal they just caught isn’t going to know a whole lot.

    Fast forward to grad school, where…surprise!…I was SUPPOSED to ask questions. I quickly earned the reputation as the smartest dumb person (or the dumbest smart person) they’d ever encountered.

    Sigh…

    1. I think that’s when I thrived most – college and grad school – when questioning was encouraged. It’d be tough to have a career in which being on a need-to-know basis was essential to survival, but I’m sure you learn to ask a whole different nature of question!

  3. I don’t recall being much of a questioner as a kid. But these days…..I may question too many things. It may drive my husband a bit crazy but it sure helps me process things, even when the answer isn’t immediate. You may need to remind yourself from time to time that Bea’s questioning is a good thing. 😉

    1. I definitely need to keep the big picture in mind on those tough days of questions… 😉 Love that you stored up all your questions and are asking them now! I know I benefit from your process as you write about them.

  4. Annie, I love that you’re encouraging your girl to ask questions. And you’re developing the fine art of listening. It’s essential in parenthood. Your parents instilled some great traits in you. Bea is going to grow up curious about her world because of what you’re teaching her now by listening and answering. 🙂

    Great post, my friend!

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