Let’s play 20 (thousand) questions

If you are the father of a new baby boy and you are feeling a little left out because junior only seems to have eyes for Mommy and her rolling hills of milk and honey, take heart. Your day will come. Your day will come with a suffocating vengeance. Junior will cover you with love, elbows, knees, and incessant questions before you know what hit you.

Boys start climbing up and down Daddy as toddlers. This isn’t so bad. Toddlers aren’t very heavy. Yes, they have sharp corners, but there is usually not enough force behind the pointy parts to cause Daddy any serious internal damage. More importantly, toddlers don’t ask a steady stream of questions just to hear themselves talk. They may talk a steady stream of gibberish at you, but all you have to do is smile and nod to keep them happy.

a horse of course

They’ll ride you like an army mule.

Five-year-olds are a different story. They can get to be heavy. We’re talking a serious bag of rock salt here. Their love for Daddy can be a painful one. Worse, five-year-olds are full of Daddy questions. These are not to be ignored, even if the answers are right in front of their faces.

I’m not talking about the occasional, meaningful question – the one that lets a boy put together the pieces of his world to help it make sense. I’m talking about the “narrate the world to me as it passes so I don’t have to pay attention to anything on my own” questions.

Our five-year-old likes to watch history documentaries, especially those dealing with the World Wars. I like watching them too, so this isn’t a problem – until his mouth starts running. For the life of me, I can’t get the boy to understand that if he would just shut his pie hole and listen to the program, most of his questions would be answered before he asked them.

Moreover, his endless questions make it difficult for me to hear the TV, meaning I have more trouble answering his questions. That is, when his question is something more complex than the ubiquitous, “Are those Germans?” That one I can usually handle without the narrator’s help.

I’ve missed out on a myriad of fascinating tidbits of history answering the “Are those Germans?” question. But the boy occasionally asks a thoughtful question. It’s just too bad he can’t write these down to ask after the program.

WWI German artillery

Yes. They’re Germans. Now can we remain quiet and listen to the program for 10 seconds?

In an awkward oversimplification, I have categorized Nazis as the “bad Germans” for him. This leads him to the very reasonable question: “What happened to all the good Germans.” I only wish I were smart enough to answer that. This boy has a strong sense of right and wrong, and great pride in his German heritage. It pains me that I can’t reconcile these things for him. Even his good questions give me fits.

The good news is that I only have to hem and haw over the deep questions I can’t answer for a few seconds before we fall into our old, comfortable give and take:

“Are those Germans?”

“No. They’re Italians.”

“Oh. How about those? Are they Germans?”

“Nope. Greeks.”

Meanwhile, the unheard narrator drones on with his superfluous facts, far less important than labeling everyone in every picture.


24 comments on “Let’s play 20 (thousand) questions

  1. Big sympathy high five here. My son does the same thing with pretty much any movie we watch. When I watched Star Wars with him for the first time, it was question after question. He knew enough about the movie and the characters already thanks for friends talking about it all the time, so I could tell he was trying to meld what he already knew with what was going on. But I was like, “for the love of Obi-Wan, just watch the frickin’ movie and you will find out.” Besides, I hadn’t watched it in a million years, so I didn’t even know the answers to most of the questions.

  2. Hop Dad says:

    Yes, I know how that goes. Question after question, often repeated in quick succession. I get to answer the question “where are we going?” many times from the moment I tell them to get their shoes on to after I start the car.

    I developed a couple of strategies for dealing with the barrage. Each one gets used depending on my level of patience. http://hopdad.com/2012/10/15/the-barrage-has-begun/

  3. Very funny. I hate to burst your bubble, but girls are the same way. Loved this post! It brought back many memories.

  4. REDdog says:

    Maaate, it ends, I’ve got 4 teenagers, 3 boys, eventually they stop asking you anything…ever…because they already know more than you do. BUT, when they were little I used to enter their world (because in my world you would be living under the stairs if you talked when I was watching my show), so I’d do one of two things: 1. answer their questions with an absurd amount of detail and not stop until they asked me to “because we’re missing the show, Dad”, and 2. anticipate the questions and answer them before they asked them…drove ’em nuts eventually. Oh yeah, and number 3. was an occasional answer that was ridiculous (eg. Are they Germans Dad (again), No son, they’re the bison… It meant I had to resign myself to watching stuff at a later date but amusing myself was preferable to losing my mind.

  5. My son would get bored of my answers and say, “I’ll ask Fred” who was the dad at daycare. Fred saved me on countless occasions. You need a Fred.

  6. pieterk515 says:

    Mom seems to be tired of answering questions from a class of 7-year-olds, so she just gives my kids the “Ask Dad” reply, which places me in exactly the same position.

    I have, however, learnt that I preferred those “Is that a German?”-questions to the ones I’m currently being asked, by my older, but not old enough, kids.

    Those include questions like: “What’s masturbation?” or “Is French kissing fun?”

  7. Traci says:

    My friend has a 7 year old boy who asks about a question a minute. I timed him once and he asked 16 questions in 10 minutes. The fact that she keeps her sanity is the really amazing part.

  8. stacybuckeye says:

    Unless the documentaries took place on a train, Gage would most likely be asking where the train was, because surely there must be one. Just this last week he’s started asking the oddly phrased why questions. And one just leads to another to another. They always end in ‘for’. Obviously, he takes after me in the grammar department.

  9. A. van Nerel says:

    I’m 32 years old and I love watching the occasional WWII documentary…whenever I do, the first thing I want to know is: Am I watching Germans, Italians, Brits, Russians, Japs or Americans? As far as I can tell your son is asking the right questions;)

  10. What’s up with that boy and his German fetish? My boys are very angular and boney, so wrestling can be a tricky proposition, if I don’t protect my midsection. I’m sure you know that well enough.

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