A question

February 25, 2015

“Mummy, where do dragons come from?” Eliza asked the other day, two minutes into a four hour car journey back to London. Caught off-guard, I paused. “Erm…now that’s a good question.”

It’s fair to say we have reached this – fairly inevitable – toddler stage, the age of the question. Eliza now casts a question mark over everything, with the the word ‘why’ pushed right to the front of her vocabulary (why, oh why?). The queries range from the mundane – “what’s the baby doing?” and “why are you tidying the kitchen up?” To the ridiculous “why are you putting cereal in the fridge?” (That, I wish I knew). Along with her new suspicious phrase if she thinks something’s not right – “waaaaait a minute” – it seems we have a mini Columbo in our midst.

There’s the questions that provoke an interesting debate and where she’s happy with a short answer. Then there are the others “Where’s Daddy?” “He’s gone to work” “Why?” “Because he has a job he goes to every day” Why?” “To earn money” “Why?” “To make sure we have food and stock the fridge with Babybels.” Why?” “So we won’t be hungry” “Why?” “Oh look! Isn’t that a  big lorry?” And it’s these sort that send us into a rhetorical spin from which there is no recovery full stop.

On one hand, I love each new stage of development, it’s amazing to feed the growing mind and imagination of a super-active toddler, it’s provoked some crazy conversations, and isn’t it fabulous that everything is a chance for learning and explanation? On the other, warning; slightly trying on two hours sleep.

After a good few months of tiptoeing round the big ones “what happens to Aaaaunahhna and Elsa’s parents? Where’s the ship? What are those stones?” I’m bracing myself for when these topics come up. It’s lucky that, having just had a sister, we’ve already covered the baby one. No-one wants to lie to their children, but how do you keep the magic, and inevitably, soften the blow around issues that even we struggle with the answers to?

All this has had an interesting side effect though. It’s made my sleep-addled brain think. When do we, as adults, stop questioning things? When do we go from “why do humans do such senseless and hideous things to each other?” to instead, the grim resignation of modern day life “Oh wait, another negative news event.” And it also brings to mind many questions of my own. When will I get a good night’s sleep? How many years before I can go to the loo by myself? And, inevitably, why did we not buy wine at the shop?

I think the real worry is that she will soon uncover the unspoken rule of adulthood – that we often have no idea why things are the way they are, or why we do the things we do. Or that she’ll find out – as this Guardian article so brilliantly put it – that everyone really is just winging it, most of the time.

And as to dragons? “The olden days, but they don’t really exist” was my lame answer, only slightly better than Alex’s jokey attempt of “Game of Thrones” (“what’s that?”)   Luckily she fell asleep soon after and fellow passenger Grannie gave me a good prompt, which is ‘they come from the magical world of books, where anything is possible.’ You can’t really question that…can you?

Also: Motherhood journeys and should we stop tantrum shaming and rebrand the ‘terrible’ twos?


  • Alison

    February 26, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Ahhh this is such a fun /frustrating phase. We’re still in it. Yesterday we were on the bus & G asked what the sticker on the bus wall said. It said NO ALCOHOL. “Erm well you know Mummy & Daddy have special drinks that only they can have? Well you’re not allowed to drink them on the bus” to which she replied “oh why not?”
    I didn’t want to get into how alcohol changes your mood & behaviour & if you drink too much you might do something silly. “Because you might spill it!” Was my answer. Ha!

  • helloitsgemma

    February 26, 2015 at 11:40 am

    We are all winging it. It’s the very tricky ones at inappropriate moments, just pulling at a friends house: How are babies made? er, not right now!
    In a cafe with 2 other small boys, various questions on the male anatomy – all terribly serious. Er, ask your Dad when we get home.
    I’ve found the ones on death much easier!
    Loved the guardian article and I am so impressed that with two young children and so little sleep, you are able to write something so brilliantly articulate.

  • Keri-Anne

    February 26, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    My eldest is 7 and starting to ask very serious questions about the world that i really have no idea about. She wants to know in depth information on how the world was made and the size of our planet compared to others and the dreaded question “but how EXACTLY did i get into your tummy”. I thank god for google sometimes 😉 x

  • Polly

    February 26, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    oh the questions!! THey are never ending! Now my 11 year old asks me difficult questions about things from history I have no idea about lol {oh and when I was pregnant I had never ending questions from my 8 and 5 year olds!}

  • Eleanor (TheBristolParent)

    February 27, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Oh blimey, am not there yet, apart from ‘whassssthat? and whasssthat noise?’ but this did make me laugh – I know every phase is a passing one but I have a feeling this one might run and run!

  • Kathryn (@KatGotTheCream)

    February 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I still don’t know how I feel or what I think about death so I find this one sooo hard to answer. Greig’s an atheist whereas I want to believe (in an alien/fairies/spirits rather than religious way) that there’s something else. Luckily G, ever the pragmatist, just replies, ‘that’s why it’s so important that we live every day to the full and enjoy our time together’ and I can’t argue with that. Great post xx

  • Jess @ Along Came Cherry

    February 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Haha Cherry always say ‘waaait a minute’! These little people don’t miss a thing! We haven’t had too many difficult questions yet which is good as I’m dreading the death ones etc x

  • Fiona

    February 27, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Ah the magical world of books, that is a wonderful answer. I get asked many questions but most of them don’t make much sense, they are probably the most infuriating. Gah. x

  • Natalie Ray

    February 27, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Ah we are also at this questioning stage. My solution for what it’s worth is to respond to the “why?” Question with, “why do you think?” This works for us because it makes her think about the answer herself and let’s me know whether she genuinely doesn’t know the answer or whether she’s just trying to get a reaction.x

  • Shirley

    February 28, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Trust me even as a Nanar I still Ask impossible questions and miss my dear friend John Stokes who could give plausible answers fast which would satisfy me till middle of the night when I would start to question his answers.

  • abigail

    March 1, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Hah I do love their curiosity, Theo’s become quite the know it all recently, and likes to give his opinion on why things are the way they are rather than questioning them…it does get tedious but at the same time is amazing to see them soaking everything up!

  • Lori

    March 2, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    I know hwat you mean, it does seem we get to a certain age and just accept everything rather than ask why or what. I think F’s first proper serious questions were, can dolphins feel happy and what made the saber tooth tigers die…both answers were googled lol. x

  • fritha

    March 3, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    yep the questions stage! The death thing really stumped me and I’m not sure I’ve really explained it to him properly as he still things people can just bring other people back to life with a kiss so… x

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