She asks endless questions, which is… normal.
Perhaps it’s only I who feel unready, unsteady, but it’s not just the asking that worries me. It’s also the way her mind seems to work.
Apparently, she sees no end to any conversation. Daily, she asks questions unexpectedly about issues that we’d discussed months (sometimes years) ago, and she literally has difficulty falling asleep at bedtime because the wheels in her head are turning ceaselessly, grinding out new theories to be explored. All this, on top of the questions that she continuously reasks, mulling over newly provided old answers in the context of recently acquired information.
Further, she refuses to accept the notion that some matters may be “too complicated” for her, as a little five-year-old girl, to grasp. The other day, she insisted that I read her some of my poetry, even though she didn’t understand much of it. Then, of course, she asked me to reread it. Then, of course, she told me that she too wants to write meaningful texts on a computer.
And – she has a vivid imagination, which is… normal. Not a day goes by without her flying around Neverland with her husband(!) Peter Pan, scaling the Great Wall of China with her friend Mulan, and fighting off countless movie villains with her other Disney allies. These daily adventures feed into her budding theology, which is being nurtured by her preschool teacher. Thanks to HaShem, you see, she is a faerie heroine with many magical abilities, in charge of all the troops of China, and queen of the whole world. God Himself is a recurring character in her role-playing.
She casually uses the words teleportation, telekinesis, and telepathy.
* * *
In the last years, I’ve managed to articulate something regarding myself that had long defied me. It’s difficult to lay out, but important.
There are too-simple ways of describing this aspect of myself, but they fail to capture its essence. I could, for example, say that I am detail oriented, but it’s more than an orientation. It’s Suspicion.
I must grasp the basic building blocks of others’ ideas before being able to accept their validity. My Self is inherently suspicious of all the inputs it receives. How do the inputs feel to me? How do the alternatives feel? If my Self is troubled by something, what is it, exactly, and why so?
It’s not so much that I enjoy the details. I don’t. Rather, it’s that only by breaking apart ideas into their smallest constituent concepts can I determine whether my Self might internalize them. If so, all future inputs are viewed through the prisms of these newly internalized ideas, along with all that my Self contained before them.
As with all character traits, there are advantages and disadvantages to this inherent Suspicion. Two of the greatest disadvantages are:
- The Suspicion applies equally to all inputs, regardless of their sources. This makes receiving advice even from the most beloved and trusted sources challenging. I am too likely to feel unduly pressured by loved ones who cannot understand why I won’t simply accept their advice.
- Overcoming the Suspicion is a long process, which I have not been able to accelerate. I never know in advance whether a new idea will be internalized by my Self at all, nor how long that process may take.
This Suspicion of mine informs my theology, political views, and parenting approach. My Self needs a lot of time to process its experiences so I must grant everyone else whatever amount of space (s)he may need, and I must provide anyone who requests it whatever honest response (s)he may ask of me, particularly my daughter.
* * *
So I answer all of her questions diligently, thoroughly, deeply. I’m even guilty of suggesting additional questions to her, and she’s become wont to ask me, “Was that a good question?”
“Was that a good question?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Because you’re striving to better understand how the world around you works. Asking questions is how you learn.”
With every interaction, her vocabulary improves, her understanding of phrases that she’s heard from watching movies and from reading books develops, and the limits of her awareness are extended. With every interaction, her knowledge base increases, her imagination becomes more excited, and she becomes more insistent for further information. She knows three alphabets, facts about different animal kingdoms, various country flags, the names of the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the USA, which side of her brain is responsible for her overactive imagination…
And all of this is… normal… but… perhaps she’s much too like me…