I hope everyone had a great holiday season and have had a great start to 2013.
Over the holidays, I spent a lot of time with my children (Kira who is 3 years old and Ashlan who is 9 months old) traveling from one get-together to another. I don’t know how many of you have spent a lot of time driving with a 3 year old lately (I haven’t until now) and all I can say is “Mom/Dad—I’m sorry for all I put you through growing up as a kid!”.
My 3 year old is as precocious as they come and loves to talk. As we drove, whether it was 5 minutes to the in-laws or 2 hours to my family’s house, I would get question after question and undoubtedly over half of them would start with the same 3 letter word, “WHY”. “Daddy, why are we going to Grandma’s and Granddaddy’s house?” “Why are we going this way?” “Why did we take your truck and not Mommy’s car?” “Why isn’t the moon out?” Then, no matter how short or long of an answer I would give her – “For Christmas.” “Because it is the shortest way to the store with the least number of red lights.” “Because Mommy said it was Daddy’s turn to drive.” “Because it is behind the clouds.” – I would get another question, “But Why?”.
Sometimes it was funny to have to explain either in more detail or differently to help her understand the answer. Sometimes it was downright frustrating and I would resort to the old “Because I said so” answer.
As I spent time with Santa on Christmas Eve eating cookies and drinking milk, I began to think about all of this and how powerful the word WHY is. It is one of the shortest questions you can ask to get someone to rethink or better explain something in an effort to get to the root answer or cause. There are business articles about how Toyota had a system where they would ask WHY 5 times to any answer as a way to ensure they truly understood the motivations behind it and to ensure it was the true and complete one.
Now, Kira hasn’t read any of those articles or taken any classes at daycare on the art of questioning, but it is in our nature to want to get to that root understanding from a young age. We want to seek answers that we can understand and put into a context of our understanding. The more abstract or foreign something is, the harder it is to do that. Therefore, if we truly care about the matter, we will ask WHY even more. But, in many cases, after years of getting “Because I said so” or “Because that is just how it is”, we stop asking WHY and just accept answers given to us as fact even if we don’t understand them fully.
Lord knows I do it with many things; why does our government wait to the last minute to deal with issues? Why does a round pizza come in a square box? Why do we have 15 dirty coffee cups in our office sink when only 8 of us are in the office that day? Why can’t I ever remember where my car is in a parking lot?
So, how do we keep/regain our inquisitive nature? I think we first have to be OK with not understanding everything and believe the person we are asking the question to really does want to help you understand. You can’t have root knowledge of every subject. We all know we have forgotten what a hanging participle is from high school English class much less how electrons act from Physics. That is why we ask questions.
If the person to whom you are asking the question really doesn’t care to help you understand, then seek out someone who will. But, in the end, we have to keep asking WHY because that is how we learn and grow. So, thanks, Kira, for all of the questions, and I promise to keep answering them until you understand or I run out of ways to explain it. And when that happens, we will ask Google.
So, are you still inquisitive? I would love to hear from you even if it is just to ask “WHY?”.