Friday, October 29, 2010


Anyone (and I mean anyone) who has interacted with a young child has heard the question "Why?" about a ga-zillion times.  "Ok, put you're shoes on!" "Why?" "Because we're going to the store." "Why?" Because we need to get some food. Why? Because we have to eat. Why? Because our bodies need food to stay alive. Why? Because our cells need the energy in the food to function. Why? Um.. because God made it that way!

Certainly the preponderance of questions from little ones can be wearying for even the most patient grown-up. But what is it about little kids that is so inquisitive?  Is it merely that they are so young and don't know as much as we, the enlightened adults, do?  Have they simply not asked the right number of questions which gets them to a point when they don't ask "why" anymore?  Or, rather, is it because as they get older, much of the questioning becomes internal and they answer the "why" themselves?

If we think about it, aren't grownups just as inquisitive as little kids? See, I don't think the questions stop as you grow up and get smarter.  I don't think there's a limit to the questions. The questions change, certainly.  Theoretically, after the kid learns about food and digestion and feeding the cells, he won't ask why we need food to eat.

But what about all the other questions that arise from our little dialogue above? What are cells? What are they made of? What do they do? Why did God make it so? Why don't we have any food in the house? Why do I have to put my shoes on if we're going outside? Why is there such a thing as a store? What's inside it? Why do I have to ride in the cart? Can I have a balloon?

Questions never end.  In fact, the process of questioning is so important that people say there's something wrong if someone doesn't ask questions, that we're not using our intellect.  I think they're right.  If we don't ask questions about our experience, how can we possibly form any sound ideas about anything?

Ah, but there's the rub. With questioning comes the responsibility of judgment.  If I question and understand, and still refuse to judge, I am lying to myself and deliberately ignoring my duty as a know-er.  When children ask questions--and when those questions are answered--we are forming their conscience from a young age.  We are teaching them to reason, to think, to wonder, and to understand.

Sometimes, their questions can make us uncomfortable.  Oftentimes, their questions give us pause and we must reconsider our own understanding or worldview.  But this is good for us too. Grownups can get lazy in their questioning process. [I know--I'm quite lazy myself.]  I sometimes ignore certain questions simmering in the back of my mind because I'm afraid of what the answer might be.  Kids aren't afraid of questions. They can ask questions all day, about anything, and remain happy as a clam, processing things right down to the moment they fall asleep, letting their dreams continue their journey of exploration.  Kids just want to know. Everything. They want to know what's true, what has happened, what will happen, and what we are to do now.

Shouldn't we all want to know those things? Shouldn't we want to know everything about everything?


  1. oh seester I just love you! such a good way to start my day ... pondering :)

  2. haha, I'm so glad you like it :) the kids are cute, huh? I had more pictures I could have added, but I didn't want to overwhelm the world with cuteness all in one post ;)

  3. This is quite the Lonerganian post...

    Just sayin' ;0)

  4. love the post :) especially after us, enlightened adults, had such a good conversation last night! i LOVE the pictures.. you can just see all the kiddies asking questions.

    you have a gift seester, lagbv

  5. Paul, of course it's Lonergenian! I've picked up a bit over the years :) and there's nothing like T's quiet studying for hours of internal reflection for me ;)

    Viv, thanks :) for your conversation and for the compliments on the pics. I have great subjects, what can I say?

  6. Spending time with a NONVERBAL kiddo is fascinating. He understands SO much. My answers to his questioning looks and points sound like your "endless answer" string. I just keep going hoping something hits the mark! There is a reason for everything...

  7. Aunt Janet! How interesting--it's true that words aren't necessary for asking a question :) how cute!

  8. Annie, you're lazy?!?!?! I never would use that term with you!

    Anyway, Giulia was a talker and always asking quesitons, Carrick is much more of a silent communicator. He still does ask many questions, but it's amazing for me to see the difference. Great post, your philosophy hubby must be so proud! :D

    I love you two, because you're so good for each other!

  9. I love that you thought about this here. Especially since we are deep in this stage with our tots. I think adults can infer a lot more based on experience. Adults have different ways getting answers to their questions so that they don't have to ask so many vocative questions. For instance we have the internet and books we can get without asking anyone. We can pursue questions without ever asking friends or family. But isn't going to college just one big festival of pursuing questions. Look at me, I am still pursuing the big question of Icon writing...I bought Pearson's second book. "Another Brush with God."

    Love you, Annie!

  10. It definitely *did* occur to me spending time w/ your kids (ahem, Alex) :) but it was driven home especially the other day, when I spent all day in the car with Lydia (6) who questioned EVERYTHING I DID! "What did you take a picture of?" Why are you moving your toes? Why don't you have your shoes on? What did you put in your purse? What did you just look at?

    Lemme say: it was terribly ironic that I was all "oh, indulge them, teach them, answer them" in this post and just wanted to sit and not be questioned by Lydia.. :) ah, children.

    Glad you got the icon book! Someday, I want to commission an icon of Catherine of Siena (the saint of our wedding day) :)