Lebanon Reporter

Columns

October 23, 2012

Living with the inquisition

My youngest son is nearly 5 years old. He’s an inquisitive little boy who reminds me a great deal of his 18-year-old brother. As a young, inexperienced mother, I thought the constant questions would stop once a child got through the “why” stage. But by the time my oldest son reached the age of 9, I realized I was living in a perpetual state of Trivial Pursuit.

I could handle questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where do babies come from?” But I can’t handle, “What is the sky made of,” or “How do lightning bugs’ butts stay lit after you pinch them off?”

Sometimes I think God blessed me with inquisitive sons because I spent so much time in school with an “I don’t care” attitude. The problem is, I still don’t care, but now that I’m a mom I have to act like I do. I can’t say to my son, “I don’t know if worms have taste buds, and it’s not going to benefit my life in the least to acquire that bit of knowledge.”  This tactic got me a solid F in Chemistry, and it gets you an F in motherhood too.  

It is my responsibility to help them find the answers to their pressing questions. For a while, I tried answering with my own questions. When asked about worm taste buds, I responded, “Well, do worms have tongues?”  

If he doesn’t know, then I buy myself time and the possibility that he will find out whether or not worms have taste buds when he researches whether or not they have tongues.

What amazes me the most is how boys can come up with questions that have absolutely no relevance to the situation. It’s like their brains never have down time.

I remember one summer afternoon, we were lazily soaking up sunshine in our lawn chairs, eating tenderloin sandwiches and enjoying music at a bluegrass festival. Son turned to me and asked, “Can you turn carbon dioxide into oxygen?”

I held up one finger so he would wait while I finished chewing my food, and then leaned over to hubby and repeated the question. Without batting an eye, hubby replied, “Yes.”

I leaned back toward my son and let him know that you can indeed turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Just as I took another bite of my sandwich he asked, “Then why can’t people breathe under water?”

With a sigh, I choked down the food in my mouth and asked hubby. He replied, “The human body isn’t capable.”

I share this info with son, and pause for a moment in case he has further questions. Satisfied that he is satisfied, I take another bite. Apparently I had given him just enough time to process his thoughts because he asked, “So you can only do it with a machine?”

I nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders to imply that he was most likely correct. This prompted him to ask, “So, if you attached that machine to yourself could you breathe under water?”

At this point, I bugged my eyes out in a way that said, “Enough already!”

How’s a mom supposed to relax when she’s being plied with questions that make her brain want to shut down?

My daughters are smart and inquisitive too, but their questions are different. They are more like me. They have the kind of genius that will get them backstage at a concert, or help them figure out how to obtain the private phone numbers of famous people. The important stuff.

Daughters ask questions I can actually answer. “Do these shoes go with this outfit?”

“Do you think Orlando Bloom will still be single when I’m old enough to get married?”

“Does Barbie look fat in these pants?”

“Where do babies come from?”

Sons ask questions like: “Do you think the iceberg that sank the Titanic has melted yet?”

“What kind of exercises can I do to strengthen my jaw muscles?”

“Was George Washington taller than Moses?”   

There is no rhyme or reason to boy questions. They are often fired off in rapid succession so that I’m left with a glazed look in my eyes, wondering what is going on in his brain. I’ll be cooking dinner or folding laundry, and he’ll just walk up and ask, “Do sharks burp?” “Why do boys have nipples?” “Which hurts worse; scraping your arm on a nail or getting scratched by a cat?”

Sometimes the questions are deeper and more insightful. One night I was bombarded with, “How long does it take to get to Heaven after you die?”

“Will you still be my mom in Heaven?”

“Does God breathe oxygen?”

“How can God love me more than you do if He’s never been a mom?”

Ah! That last one’s easy. God doesn’t have to answer all these questions.

Ginger is a speaker and mother of five children, ages 4-20. Contact her at ginger@gingertruitt.com.

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