04 November 2011

The Questions never cease

["Your child asks too many silly questions", my son's teacher complained the other day. Since I wasn't in a mood to argue, I draped a suitably mortified expression on my face and made the appropriate noises. But, internally, I was smiling. The one thing I WANT my children to do is to never stop asking questions.

And it all began when they were both much, much younger than they are today, as this piece written four years back shows.]



With the four-year-old, questions never cease.
On the way to school – “Why do people make so many buildings?”
Watching TV – “Are zebras and tigers the same? Both have stripes.”
In the playground – “Why do swings go up and slides come down?”
In the kitchen fixing a sandwich –“Why do pigeons not have bathrooms?”
While being bathed – “Lions use which shampoo?”
At midnight when you are trying to get him to sleep – “Why do dolphins not have ears?”
You can answer some of them, but some leave you totally speechless - “Why do birds poo, but not pee?” – how on earth did he even notice that?
*
Sometimes, the questions start off being factual – “Is Hanuman a God or a Superhero?”…
… then get slightly combative – “But Hanuman can fly – why do you say he is not a Superhero?” …
… before settling for the purely philosophical – “But why does Hanuman not want to be a Superhero?"
*
They say two years is too young an age to start asking meaningful questions. Not!
Your two-year-old isn’t too far behind his brother – “Why is the moon so thin?”
Before you can say anything, the older brother pipes up – “Because the moon goes to the gym.”
Not good enough for the two-year-old – “but why is the moon sometimes thin and sometimes fat?”
The brother explains with all the patience of a four-year-old – “The moon sometimes eats KitKat and becomes fat, and then it goes to the gym and becomes thin again.”
You realize that you really should be more careful what you say in front of these kids!
*
You can never shut them up with generalities –
“Why are elephants so big?
“Because God made them that way.”
“But why did God make elephants so big?”
He would prefer you tell him, “Elephants are big because all animals cannot be the same size. Some animals should be small and some big. Elephants are big.”, but he is willing to settle for a “I really don’t know. Can I look it up and tell you?”
*
You know you should not be encouraging him to ask so many questions. You know you are just setting him up for future disappointment. How many teachers will have the patience not to snap at him when he comes up with a “Why do cheetahs run so fast?”, and follows it up with a “But then, why do the deer run so fast?” because the answer to the first questions begets another? Or would a teacher really be able to answer him when he asks, "Why do birds have feathers and not hair?"
*
You know you can’t win either way – encourage him now and he will be in for a disappointment later, curb him now and he may forget what it is to be inquisitive.
*
He comes up to you with a variegated leaf - “Why is this leaf not green?”
You remember last week’s question - “Why are leaves green?”, and an answer that included something about leaves being the kitchen of the plant, and the green colour the gas-stove on which food was cooked. You sigh and try to decide whether to tell him about chlorophyll and chromophyll, or whether to just ask him to shut up. You know you have to decide fast, but before you can say something to buy time, he triumphantly pipes up, “this leaf is not green because the plant orders takeaway and heats it on the microwave.”
You look into his gleaming eyes, and hug him. Perhaps he will survive even in this big bad world that discourages independent thought.
***

4 comments:

sue said...

Good on you Rayna. Nurture, hug and encourage as the moment commands. Questions can be frustrating for parents and teachers, but those enquiring minds are what have led to wonderful discoveries and inventions. I remember being woken at 3am by my son when he was young, asking how ships got power when they were in the middle of the ocean. *sigh - it was tedious at times, but worth every frustration to see a (now) young man still thinking independently and outside the square. Sue

Michael Offutt said...

Questions show an inquisitive mind. It's best to nurture those to foster critical thinking.

Chary Johnson said...

Those are positively awesome questions. Shame on his teacher for stifling his inquisitive growth. The only reason I can see her annoyed is if your son is asking questions at inappropriate moments. However, I would have asked him to just write them down and talk to me after class.

Meera said...

Amazing children! But what else do you expect an amazing mother to have!