“Mommy, what is this song called?”
“Mommy, why is orange juice yellow?”
“How do the bakers make strawberries?”
The Eldest has always been a cleverly curious boy. But recently, his level of questioning has reached a new high. His constant questioning has pushed my level of patience, and has shown me, in more than a few ways, how little I actually know.
Somewhere along the line he got the idea that bakers are responsible for making things. Not just things like bread and cookies, but all things. Mostly, as we’re sitting down to eat a meal, I’m fielding questions that go something like this: “Mommy, how do the bakers make pretzels?” And so I explain, to the best of my knowledge, throwing a little flour in, a bit of water, and always the salt. He thinks hard about that, swallowing a bite of sandwich. And then “Mommy, how do the bakers make forks?” He really wants to know where forks come from, how they are made. Here’s the other thing: if I really thought about it, I could parse out the particulars. I could tell him about the factory, how the fork gets packaged and shipped to a store. And the worst thing? Mostly, because my life is the hectic mess of the Littles, mostly, I brush off his questions, spout some quick answer that doesn’t satisfy. Mostly, because it’s the twenty third question he’s asked in ten minutes, I get frustrated that his constant curiosity is getting in my way. Because the Littlest is crying, and the Middlest is spreading peanut butter on the table with her fingers, I sigh and offer an exasperated “they just do.”
The other day we were driving home from Target, taking some back roads because the day was beautiful and with no place to be we were taking “the pretty way” home. It doesn’t take much around here to get away from the more developed strip malls and traffic lights to find gently sloping country lanes, crossing small creeks over single lane rickety bridges. As we drove, from the back seat he asks “Why is this a hill?” Mark and I caught each other’s eye in the front of the car, and Mark breathed in deeply before beginning to formulate some sort of answer. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something having to do with God creating the earth. Then, not even a full beat later, “Why is it so steep?” I sighed, and landed on the answer that I give probably too frequently: “It just is, buddy.”
As a grown up, I don’t have that feverish curiousity about the world that my four year old so desperately has. I’ve come to accept things just the way they are, for better or for worse. When I actually slow down enough to listen carefully through the relentless curious chatter, I hear his hunger to know the world around him. I see his eyes, wide with wonder, and a desire to make sense of what he witnesses. It betrays his wild intelligence, and who am I to squash that? While it may seem like he is pestering me for attention in moments when he is not getting it, ultimately when he is asking me as we are merging on the highway “Why are we driving fast?” it’s not because he is trying to be a nuisance. No, instead it’s because this observant boy has noticed the change in his environment, this shift in our momentum, and with his foot firmly planted on his imaginary gas pedal, he wants to make sense of it all.
Just as much as I need to slow down, exert a more patient ear and give the straight forward answer that the Eldest is looking for, I am ready to embrace an honest confession, humbly offering up the limits to my knowledge when I don’t have an answer. I want to search out answers with him. I want his curiosity to be contagious, to kindle in me a desire to be drawn with him into a deeper relationship with the world. As he grows, his questions will grow, gaining strength and importance as he tackles the Big Questions. I want to give him permission to ask ,over and over again, challenging the status quo: To give light to the world’s injustices, always asking “why?”
But for now, this will be my soundtrack:
“Who sings this song?”
“How do bees make honey?”
At a three in the morning: “How did God make everything?”
And on it goes.