On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
You Ask Too Many Questions
When strangers come together at places like a long line at Disney World, or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, impromptu conversations sometimes develop as a way to pass the time. The tendency to chit-chat about family affairs is especially prevalent among senior citizens who might be in those long lines in disproportionate numbers because they have youngsters in tow, in their role as proxy parents; or in waiting rooms as they themselves, as patients, contemplate their past performance as parents and wish to impart their wisdom as elders with lessons to teach. One of the obvious lessons that grandparents share is about the raising of grandchildren.
We all have our own ideas about the proper way to raise children, never mind about the mistakes we might have made ourselves. And never mind about the wisdom of the lessons we wish to share with other adults in that line at Disney World, or in the doctor’s waiting room. Sad to say, wisdom does not come with advanced age: it never has and it never will. There are just as many foolish oldsters walking around as there are wise ones. Thus, the purported wisdom they wish to share with their children and grandchildren may not resemble wisdom, at all. When foolishness is spouted from the mouths of elders who are looking for respect based on their age or family ties, there is real potential for developmental harm in impressionable youngsters who themselves don’t yet know the difference between right and wrong; correct and incorrect; truth and falsehood; wisdom and foolishness.
Getting down to cases, this opinionated writer of personal chronicles believes that it is wrong for a parent to be dismissive of young children who ask a lot of questions. Children learn by asking questions about things they don’t understand. Indeed, it is possible to get informed answers from teachers at school, but what about pre-school children who possess inquisitive minds that look to their parents for satisfaction? Don’t young children deserve to learn from those whom they trust? And from loving protectors who may or may not have wise answers? The parents may have those answers but even if they don’t, they can still encourage youngsters by guiding them to sources where the answers reside.
The Internet may be the dumb creation of intelligent minds; but it just seems like computers are smarter than we are. If you don’t pose the right questions, however; you are unlikely to get the right answers. Indeed, you will get answers; but if the questions are not precise enough, the answers may not be proper ones. Yet, in this mundane world of everyday life events, the issues are more elementary. Consider the following scene on the occasion of a first-ever camping trip.
Question: “Dad, will that spider kill me? I don’t like spiders.”
Answer: “Don’t be such a scary cat. That spider is not going to bite you.”
Question: “Dad, how come there are so many ants in our tent?”
Answer: “Don’t be silly. There are no ants in our tent.”
Question: “Dad, what was that noise outside?”
Answer: “Oh, stop asking so many questions. It really gets irritating.”
Children are naturally inquisitive; the more inquisitive the child, the greater the possibility that the child will grow up to ask even more questions on important topics. Suppressing the urge of a child to ask questions is like inhibiting the growth of a beautiful rose bud about to blossom. Give that child the sunshine of your attention; and the child is likely to open its mind like a nascent flower bud. Give that child the nectar of wisdom that you have acquired; be it ever so modest, and the child is likely to grow up in a garden of learning fertilized by a loved one. Give that child the gentle watering of her thirsty inquisitiveness that is nurtured only by slaking that thirst with trusted answers, and watch her blossom into a beautiful rose, one delicate petal at a time. And be happy that she asks a lot of questions. Help her to grow her mind in a healthy body and watch her blossom into a beautiful flower of thoughtful and intelligent pursuit of truth and informed judgment.
And what about the alternatives? Shut out the sunlight of your personal attachment to her, and watch as her natural inquisitiveness slows from loss of radiant energy. Withhold your own learned richness of life’s lessons and wait to see her disappointment from not learning something new. Fail to water the flowers in her garden of wonder, and later lament how a rose blossom wilted and shriveled in your presence.