Ninety-three percent of the relationship between a mother and her children is comprised of answering questions. The same questions. Over and over and over.

They never tell you that in the parenting books. Or at the hospital.

“This is how you change a diaper…and here’s how you get them to latch on…and you need to clean their umbilical cord stump like this…and are you prepared to spend the next twenty years of your life answering the same pointless questions on repeat?”

I guess it would be a bit overwhelming to find that out when you’re just trying to figure out how to properly hold a freshly popped-out miniature human.

But it’s true.

_MG_9955The question pictured is less adorable than it appears.

All children’s questions can fall into these categories:

1. What is happening next?

Examples: What are we having for lunch? When can we see Gramamma and Pop again? When will I lose my first tooth? How many days until we go on vacation again? When can I get a parrot for my birthday?

2. Can I have?

Examples: Can I have candy? Can I have that toy? Can I eat my pancake even though it dropped on the floor? Can I have random object that doesn’t exist anywhere in the known universe except in my head?

3. Why not?

Examples: Why can’t I stay up until midnight? Why can’t I eat candy for breakfast? Why can’t I have the random object that I just made up?

4. Will you get me?

Examples: Will you get me some juice? Will you get me a snack? Will you get me that box of stickers on the top shelf of your closet that will almost certainly cause a landslide of other random objects to pour down onto your head?

5. Are we there yet?

Example: I know we just pulled out of the driveway, but by some beautiful coincidence have we also just arrived at our destination?

6. What does that say?

Examples: What does that sign say? How about that sign? And that sign? And that sign and that sign and that sign and that sign?

7. What does that mean?

Examples: What does vasectomy mean? What does episiotomy mean? What does incessant questioning mean?


Questioning has always been the biggest hobby of the shorter members of our family, but lately, we have been plagued (and I do mean plagued – like the-land-crawling-in-locusts-plagued) with the first category of questions. Our two children seem to be obsessed with the future, and spend 99% of the present asking about said future.

I don’t think Chris quite believed me when I told him how bad it had gotten (“Like locusts in your ears, in your cereal, in your toilet, in your sealed water bottle bad, honey”), because when I suggested we have a family meeting about this problem, he seemed to think this too drastic a step.

Until the weekend came.

“I’ll answer all their questions this weekend”, he vowed.

I readily agreed. It’s not that Chris is normally unhelpful – he’s actually the most helpful sort – but fathers have the ability to completely tune out children – especially their steady stream of questioning – in a way that mothers can only lust after.

Chris took the family to the mall to see a traveling Lego exhibit. During the entire tour of the mall, he was barraged with the locusts flowing from our children’s mouths.

“Are we almost there?”

“Can we go to the hot dog truck next?”

“When are we going to eat dinner?”

“When I’m ten do you think I’ll be able to do a cartwheel?”

“Are we going to eat dinner at the mall?”

“Can I have a car when I grow up?”

“Can we go to Build-A-Bear and make a Minion?”

“Can we ride the train?”

He answered each question with a carefully measured level of patience and ignored my smug sideways smiles.

Finally, he started answering with, “Just enjoy the present, kids. No more questions about the future. We’re at the mall doing something special. Just focus on that.”

The questions then got modified to focus on “the present”.

“What is the next Lego exhibit we’re going to see?”

“When will we find the Lego White House?”

“When we grow up can we make giant Lego sculptures like this?”

My smile began to have giggling sound effects as I filled with glee at not being the only one to realize that our children had jumped headfirst down the rabbit hole of endless parental inquisition.

We piled into the car and Chris sucked in a deep, calming breath.

I went ahead and said it for him.

“We need to have a family meeting, kids.”

“Okay Mommy!”

“Y’all have got to quit asking so many questions about the future. We can’t always, or don’t want to always, answer them. We will inform you what is going to happen next when when choose. So. We’re going to have a code word that Daddy and I will say when you’ve just asked a question about the future, and you’ll know that code word means ‘we’re not going to answer that and you need to not ask questions like that ever, ever again.’ So – what would y’all like the code word to be?”

(We’ve done this code word trick once before and it was a great way to not feel like we were nagging all the time. Ali was having a problem biting her lower lip and was therefore pushing her two front teeth outward, making the dentist threaten early braces. So we came up with the code word “strawberry”, and every time we said that to her she was to quit biting her bottom lip. It helped break the habit and we didn’t have to waste syllables constantly.)

Ali: “How about Snickerdoodle?”

Me: “Too long. I’m going to be saying this code word A LOT. I need something two syllables or less.”

Ali: “Then just Doodle?”

Me: “We like Doodle’s Sorbet too much. Let’s not sully that name.”

Ali: “Okay. Could we use a car name?”

Me: “Sure.”

Ali: “Hmm….Honda?”

Me: “Honda is perfect. So anytime Daddy or I say ‘Honda’, you both know what that means. Right?”


It took approximately two minutes.

“Where are we going for dinn—“ “HONDA!”

Then, at dinner, “When I’m twelve can I get a kitten?”

“That’s like the biggest Honda ever.”

Then, after dinner, “Where are we going next?”


“Are we there yet?”


“Are we close to there yet?”


It hasn’t slowed the questioning yet, but Honda is calling and wanting their royalty check.

11 thoughts on “The Great Questioning.

  1. I’m new to blogging and just ran across your’s reading your most recent post. It brought a smile to my face and I can’t wait to read more.

  2. In my expert opinion I believe this questioning is your fault. You two have two of the most inteligent children I know. So it is in their genes, produced by you two that they are so inquisitive. Their vocabulary is already larger than mine. Embarrassing. In conclusion because of the brain they got from you two you must answer all questions. Excuse the spelling, I did not get the brains in the family.

  3. The question is not as adorable as it appears – one of my favorite captions ever!
    We used to have a hand signal that indicated the volume of talking was getting too loud. Worked great because I could tone it down without interrupting. My kids now range from 12-19 but we still use it every once in a while. Hope your code word works well too!

  4. How many times have they asked, “what kind of car will our next one be?” Our oldest is a first-rate questioner and I’m pretty sure he’d come up with a question to frustrate the code-word solution.

  5. I wish my children asked. Mostly they just make demanding statements. Over and over and over and over and over and over…

  6. What a brilliant idea! Of course I will have to pick a word that I already hate because no doubt it will take a mere 24 hours before I hate the code word from having said it 2,496 times. Whew. We are also in a locust-questioning phase. The 5 year old is the worst, but the 3 year old is close behind. The one I hate the most is when they ask a question I answered two minutes ago. YOU JUST ASKED THAT! Our 5 year old will literally ask questions so fast you can’t slip the answer in before the next one comes. ARGH!

  7. HAHAHA! So funny. But I love the family meeting idea and having them come up with their own code word. I’m definitely putting that in my back pocket for later.

  8. Try having a highly-anxious, and also very nosy, 8 year old! So I can add two more categories for you:

    8. What are you guys talking about?
    Examples: What? I didn’t hear that! What are you talking about? What does that mean? Why are you leaving the room? Why are you whispering? (I like to whisper, too.)

    9. What if this completely random catastrophe happens?
    Examples: What if there’s a “snow flood”? (That’s a blizzard.) What if there’s a flood-flood? What if there’s a tornado? (Disclosure: we do have tornadoes in our state, but usually not where we live because we’re near the mountains.) What if there is a burglar in the school? (After a lock-down drill.) What if a burglar breaks into the house and you and daddy are in the back yard? And on, and on, and on…

    I like the code word idea… maybe that will help!

  9. On the other hand, if you have a very curious child, it can be used as a bribe. “Mom, what to iguanas eat?” “I’ll tell you after you eat three more bits of dinner.” “Mom, how come there’s a rainbow on the wall?” “Put your shoes on then I’ll tell you.”

    My favorite endless questioning – after my eldest got crossed the line from curious to noisy while I was mildly stressed trying to sort through papers in the office, I pulled out “curiosity killed the cat”, gave a brief explanation of what that meant, then sent him to play in a different room. As he walks out, I heard him muttering to himself, “But HOW did curiosity kill it?”

  10. My oldest daughter was speaking sentences by 12 months. At age 8, if she is not talking it is because she is watching tv, asleep, or reading. Actually she talks in her sleep… Anyhow, my youngest did not say a peep until 18 months and lost her voice frequently until age 2 1/2 due to GERD. She is 4 and has just had random moments of talking a lot. It makes me so happy to hear it and so when she had an all day questioning of why we can not get a unicorn which then became a pony I welcomed it. Now the 8 year old, argh. I should not have a double standard but I really do.

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