Dumb questions, dumb answers

There is no point asking him why he just tipped over all your folded clothes.
There is no point asking him why he just tipped over all your folded clothes. 

In the ancient art of information gathering or perhaps just Journalism 101, there exists the principle of the 5 W's (and an H!). You possibly learned it back in primary school when analysing the newspaper, instructed to find the Who, What, When, Where & Why (with a How hanging on the end) of a news story.

I've found myself inadvertently applying this theory to parenting. Highly unsuccessfully.

Gathering facts with young children as the fact-givers is a completely fruitless task. Their concept of reality is most often skewed, and definitely influenced by the potential punishment for the answers they may provide, resulting in colourful facts and creative recounts of stories.

I could proudly claim I've moved on from our own childhood days where the standards were rolled out - "Would you like a smack? Should I give you something to cry about? Do I look like a bank to you? Were you born in a tent?" However, over the past nine years, I've covered some pretty dense ground in the "dumbest questions ever asked of a child."

With some reflection and a small pinch of embarrassment, I release my Top 6 Dumbest Questions:

6. Why did you do that?

An extensive mural on our freshly painted lounge room wall was a blank canvas to our then two-year-old. As I helped his older sibling make a birthday card for a friend, I thought the "zooming" sound the toddler was making was simply a toy car being driven around the walls. It took me at least five minutes to look up and find permanent marker tracked around all four walls and a whole millisecond to bellow:

Oh My God! Why did you do that?!

That brilliant question was modestly met with a shrug and a smile.

5. What is that?

Perhaps not the dumbest but potentially the most frightening question of all. Unidentified objects - poo on the couch (Is it dog? Is it human?), a massacred bug from an archaeological dig in the garden transplanted to the bedroom carpet, a sticky gift of half-sucked lolly unearthed by my toe as I slip a foot into my shoe - call for this question. Inflection varies depending on what discovery I've made:

WHAT is that? What IS that? What is THAT?

Sometimes it is best not to know.

4. What is wrong with you?

The trusty old question that could benefit from a few swear words muttered throughout. Most of us are guilty of thinking it, even if we don't share it aloud.

The question usually pops its ugly head up at the end of the day when the young child decides to do the same - after tantrums in the supermarket, arguments at dinner, and just general abhorrent young child behaviour. In other words, children being children - tired, hungry grumpy, unwell - there are plenty of reasonable explanations for what is wrong, none of which stop me asking,

What is wrong with you?!

I'm waiting for my child to retort, What's wrong with me? I'm three. That's what's wrong with me.

But this isn't a piece based on logic. It's based on parenting.

3. When will you learn?

Another flash of parental genius. A question with so many variations - when will you learn to .. listen? Go to sleep? Put your shoes away? Be nice to your sibling? Do as I ask?

Again it is begging the answer: When I get older, Mum.

2. How hard can it be?

This has been my phrase of choice lately. Perhaps more rhetorical than literal, it is a recurring utterance of frustration.

Please go and brush your teeth. Toothpaste strewn across basin, fresh clean T-shirt and face.
Brush your teeth, not your face, clothes and bathroom! HOW HARD CAN IT BE?!

Bring your bag downstairs. We need to go. Bag still in bedroom as child discovers urgent lego construction calling out for his help.
Get your bag, please! HOW HARD CAN IT BE?!

EQUAL FIRST: What happened & Who started it?

What moron ever thought these would be useful questions to ask a child?

Sibling rivalry is rife in my home. When I hear screaming, crying, any kind of thud, or the sound of gushing blood, I bolt to the source and despite knowing better, I ask the two dumbest questions of all time: What happened? and Who started it?

There is just a rush of HesaidthatwashisbutitsmineandhestoleitoffmesoIgrabbeditback andthenhepunchedmeintheheadfornoreasonsoIwhackedhimback! Translation: I don't know and Not me.

What I should be asking myself is Why bother?

Are you willing to admit any dumb questions you've asked your child? Share your dumbest parental questions on the Essential Baby Forums.

An extensive mural on our freshly painted lounge room wall was a blank canvas to our then two-year-old.