I am beginning my second week in the home of our youngest daughter, which besides her includes our son-in-law, an almost 3 year-old, twin one year-olds, and (the reason I am here) an 8 day old – all boys. Needless to say it is a busy place, also blessed by the joy and love that sweetens the lack of sleep. The 3-year-old is in that stage of asking “Why?” in response to all requests, comments, and random statements. At first, it is engaging to answer the “whys” of life. “Why?” do we wear socks with shoes? To prevent blisters. “Why?” is it nap time? This question has various answers – it is time, you are tired, mom is tired, or any other response deemed appropriate at the time. “Why?” when told to stay in his bed, because there is not room in the crib with your twin brothers.
After answering hundreds of questions, Nana does get tired of thinking about the answers to the meaning of life and all it involves. Yet, as a teacher, I know that these questions and answers are important and will form the basis of our grandson’s world view. Recent research in brain development shows that at around three years old there is a great growth in synapses in the brain, and that if they are not used during this formative time, those synapses are pruned. Just as a gardener prunes off useless branches, God has fashioned our brain to do likewise.
We want our children to have optimum use of the amazing organ – the brain. Answering their questions is the first and best way for them to learn about the world around them. It will also lay the foundation of a life long pattern of asking questions, opinions and seeking advice from us, their parents. If we respond to them now with, “Why do you ask so many questions?” “I’m busy – ask…..”, or worst of all, ignore their questions, they will quit asking and/or find someone else to ask.
There is certainly a time for questions to stop for a while. The previously mentioned nap time and bed time, for example. Yet this can be done in a way that is respectful of the child’s natural curiosity. There may even be a specific time given for answering such as after nap, after breakfast, etc. This lets your child know that their questions are important, but that the current time is not conducive to answering those questions. I also am quick to admit that I didn’t know all the answers to questions posed by my children or now my grandchildren. It is absolutely fine to say “I don’t know.” But don’t stop there. The next comment from us should be, “I’ll help you find out.” As a child gets older, you may even ask them, “Who do you think we can ask about this?”
As our children get even older, they will be looking up answers on the internet. A caution – the values we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren may not be the values promoted by the information the child receives on-line. If we have built a foundation of love and respect our values will be more apt to be accepted by these growing children.
God does not always answer us right away. God is not governed by our time-table or our sense of “needing to know”. In fact, He says in I Corinthians 13: 8-13
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
God lets us know that while we are part of this human experience, we will not understand everything. (see italicized above) We do have the hope of coming into full knowledge when we are face to face with God. What an awesome expectation!
So, until then, I will continue learning all I can so I can answer my grandchildrens’ questions. I will also endeavor to answer the countless “whys?” with patience and love…..for the greatest of these is love.