A Simple Question
When it comes to kids, there is no such thing as a quick question.
There are quick questions. Plural. Many. More. Multiple. Rounds and rounds of questions, fired at your head in rapid succession like shots from an AK-47.
When confronted with the assault-weapon style of inquiry, a mother may at first appear unresponsive.
— Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Can you get me a glass of milk? Mom? Can you get me a glass of milk? Mom? Can you get me a glass of milk? Mom? Can you get me a glass of milk? Mom? Can you get me a glass of milk? Mom? Milk? Mom? Milk? Mom? Milk? Mom? Milk? Milk? Milk? Milk? Milk? MAWWWWWM!?
— GAH! What?
— Can I have a glass of milk?
— (Deep exhale) Yes.
— Well, I asked you like a hundred times and you didn’t answer!
— That’s because my brain WAS COWERING IN A FOXHOLE.
— What’s a foxhole?
Whatever you do, don’t answer that.
“What’s a foxhole?” is what I call a rabbit question. Responding to rabbit questions can only lead to one thing: more rabbit questions. Like their furry flop-eared cousins, these questions have a disturbing tendency to breed and multiply. One minute you’re talking about foxholes, and the next minute, 10 hours have passed and you’re speculating about whether God wears boxers or briefs. Before you know it, you wake up in a nursing home playing along with “The Price is Right” and eating lemon Jell-O through a straw, wondering where the best years of your life went.
When faced with a rabbit question, evasive action is the only answer.
— Foxhole? What’s a foxhole?
— Here. A pudding cup! With SWIRLS.
Of course, there’s no escaping every mother’s favorite question, the little black dress of inquiry: “Are we there yet?” The only safe response to this and any time-related question is “almost.”
Even if you won’t be arriving there until next year. Even if you just got back from there or have no intention of ever going there. Even if you just hosted a party for 22 5-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese’s that very day.
— Yes! Your next birthday is almost here! Isn’t it EXCITING??
Sometimes, however, children will not take “almost” for an answer.
— Is dinner ready?
— How long is almost?
— Twenty minutes.
— Is that long?
— No, it’s short.
— How short?
— Very short.
— Is it shorter than one episode of “Hannah Montana?”
— Sweet Pea, ANYTHING is shorter than one episode of “Hannah Montana.” The PLEISTOCENE ERA was shorter than one episode of “Hannah Montana.” Have a carrot.
I know. I shouldn’t complain. My children are bright, curious, inquisitive souls. They wonder about the world in which they live. They want to know who and what and when and why.
When you’re 3 years old, why is the most important question of all. If preschoolers ran the world’s newspapers, the headlines would get right to the heart of matters: “Because Airlines Are Broke!” “Because Doctors Are Overworked!” “Because Congress is in Recess. Again!”
I admit, sometimes (most of the time) (oh, fine, 99 percent of the time) I have little patience for the question why. Particularly when the question arrives poorly packaged and apropos of nothing: “Mommy, why are pants?”
But I muddle through. Patiently (oh, fine, not that patiently) waiting for that joyous “Jeopardy” moment, when someone hits me with one I know.
“Mom,” a sleepy little voice will say. “Can you carry me up to bed?”
Ahhh. My son.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Shauntel Jennings has never slept like a baby. Even as an infant, her mother stood guard over her crib, waiting for her daughter to stop breathing. She shook Shauntel’s tiny body several times each night, rousing her from her breathless sleep.
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