Burning Questions.

Seeing that one of our upcoming themes is Childhood I thought I could regale our readers with a short and entirely disconnected story slash thought on the subject. Buckle up, ladies and gents, some of these feelings have been bottled up since I pooped my first pair of Hanes-Her-Way for kiddies. I'm impressed that you even made it through this seemingly unimportant preface. Moving on.

Why do adults frequently answer children with "I don't know"? We all were kids and we all wanted to know the answers to various things. Do grown-ups get so irritated because they truly don't know anything about the subject of which the kid is inquiring or is it out of sheer exhaustion that they choose to ignore the question? Nine times out of ten it's the latter. You'd be surprised how many questions I get asked daily as a YMCA Day Camp Counselor. We gon' break this down mathematically (cringe)... just as an estimate, let's say that the average ten year old asks two questions an hour. At ten kids a day from 9 AM to 4 PM, that's 140 questions a day, per counselor. With questions ranging from, "Why are your legs so hairy?" to "When is swim time?" I don't knows are thrown out of my mouth like candy from a 4th of July Parade float. Simple, yes or no answers are rare and provide a disgusting amount of relief from the cog turning, thought provoking queries like, "Why do cicadas only come out every 17 years?" Yes or No questions are quick, concise and painless... that is, until the big one drops.

Wednesday. 1:30 PM. Innocent, precious, and candid, one cherub of a boy asks, "Is there a baby in your belly?" The little rodent asked me if I was pregnant. Awesome. I fumed silently for a minute, let my self-esteem shatter and then answered calmly, "No. No, there isn't a ... a baby ... in my belly." I had to let it go. Mere seconds later he had! After hearing my response he looked down at my body then proceeded to punch my chest four times, exclaim "BOOBS!" and then scurry away. I now understood why my mom took so many smoke breaks when I was younger. Before I let the irritation penetrate any deeper I took a second to think about if I had ever asked a lady if she was toting a bun in the oven. ...

I was six. My mom and I were in some department store filled with shoulder pads and zebra print. From a distance I saw a larger woman wearing blue jean coveralls completed by an embroidered pink flower. I thought to myself, "How nice, that fat lady isn't just fat, she probably has a baby in there, that's why she's so huge. When we pass her in a few seconds, I'll ask her if she is actually pregnant and then we can celebrate her happiness together!" That was the greatest idea I had in my whole six years of life. I was going to ask a complete stranger if she was with child, just so she could beam at me and say, "Why yes! And I am so happy to be pregnant! Thank you for asking, child!" As you can imagine, that is NOT the response that I received at all. The woman, startled and dismayed snapped a vicious NO in my direction and kept walking. My mom, always willing to turn experiences into lessons, tried to explain just why the lady may not think that was the nicest question to ask. This was the moment in which my mom tried to teach me common courtesy and the virtue of a closed mouth (which clearly didn't stick). I felt ashamed that I had made the woman so mad. I thought my question was an acceptable one! I told myself never to forget that just maybe us kids aren't trying to be mean, we really just wanna know everything.

... Back to present day. I couldn't be mad at the kid. Yes, he unintentionally insulted me, but hey, maybe he just wanted to bask in the glory that was my potential pregnancy. At least a girl can hope. After reminiscing for a few more moments, I felt secure in knowing that A: I am, in fact, not pregnant, and B: I was wearing an unflattering t-shirt/short combo that day. Before you angrily throw out an "I don't know" or an emotionless yes or no robotic response at a child, think about from which direction their question is coming. They could be earnestly seeking an answer to one of lives burning questions.

Who invented grass? Why do we have to sing songs everyday? What is cotton made out of? When do I get to go home? Can I see your name tag? Are you cross-eyed? Where is Shaleena from? Is Shaleena from India? Where is India? Does that mean Shaleena is an Indian from Cowboys and Indians? Who is Shaleena?

-Jessica Link

1 comment:

  1. I love it!
    Excellent, well-written, well-presented piece.

    Now, all you need to do is find a theatrical device: I envision you cutting out little paper question marks and lighting them with a cigarette lighter...really selling that imagery of the title...