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Childhood Questions

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

I know as a child I asked many questions. My parents realized wisely that I wasn't looking for answers many times. I wanted to be led in the direction to find my own answers.

When I wasn't too sure of a word, I can hear in my mind what either parent would say, "Go look it up in the dictionary." At times, I'd sigh and trudge over to the hefty red unabridged book. But when I started to learn the etymology of a word, the wild twists and sometimes ungraceful turns of a word's metamorphosis, I caught the bug of lexophilia. It's a source of stimulation, play, and endless mental challenge for me when numbers and trivia leave me a bit cold.

Another example comes from summer visits to Maine. I was driven to follow the stream edged with wild mint and violets in order to discover the source of the bubbling water. Where did it begin? What fed that stream? This question surfaces throughout my life Where or what is the source for this word? This custom? This tradition? This habit?

That's why I write to encourage children to be curious. To ask questions. To develop the art of asking questions well and to find the tools to discover answers through experience.

I'll never forget the young child picking up a star fruit in the store asking her mother about it. Her mother just said, "I don't know. Why are you bugging me? I'm tired."

That's the great challenge as an adult, as a parent, teacher, or guardian of children: to not be so tired or hurried that we can't take a moment to do one or many things in response to a child's question:

  • Ask a question of the child that leads naturally from the first question.

  • Or simply ask the child, "What do you notice? What do you think? How do you feel about this?" et cetera

  • It's okay to be sometimes in a rush or so tired to say, "I don't know." Or say to the child, "Remember this question for me and ask me later." But follow up with a promise that you will help the child look for information about it later at a better time. And honor that promise.


Question seeds float on the wind

Travel in the belly of a bird

Some fall on hard dry dirt

Some enter earth

Then sprout

Cultivate questions

Those that don’t have easy answers

Let them grow wild

Or prune and shape them

Explore the network of tunnels

Made by their roots

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