Your Help Requested: Burning Questions

Some people’s kids ask them for glasses of water at night. Or to read one more book. Or to have an extra snack. Or they mention they’re scared or hot or cold or itchy or wet or sick or not tired at all and why do I have to go to bed right now and nobody in the WHOLE WORLD makes their kids go to bed as early as you do, Mom.

I’ve heard.

Our kids tried all those things which never worked because we were always consistent. By which I mean, they always worked and we were never consistent except at saying, OhMyGoshGoToBED and IWillGiveYouANYTHINGIfYouWillJustSLEEP.

Still, even though our kids had effective Stay Up Past Bedtime methods, they like to invent new ones from time to time. To keep us on our toes, I suppose. Or steeped in misery. Or to punish us for that lack of consistency.

Their latest method? I’m calling it: Ask All the Questions.

Yep. That’s what bedtime is these days. Telling them 45 times to brush their teeth. Reminding them to both pee and flush the toilet. Hollering at them that this is Bedtime, not TackleYourBrotherInTheHallwayTilHeCries-time. And threatening them with the dreaded Early Bedtime should they not heed my words.

We tuck them in bed.

We breathe the sigh of relief like we haven’t yet learned that it’s not over.

And then the Questions begin.

“Hey, Mom?”

“What?” ( <– This is where I always go wrong.)

“Why do people wear spandex?”

“Seriously? This is not the time. Go to bed.”

Ten seconds later…

“Hey, Mom?”

“What?”

“How much are people paid in China?”

“Child! Go to bed.”

Twelve seconds later…

“Hey, Mom?”

“What?”

“Can I tell you the plan I have for our yard? We’ll need a lot of temporary fencing, some chicken wire, some plastic bags, a goat and a pair of scissors.”

“Oh geez. Go to bed.”

Twenty seconds later…

“Hey, Mom? … Mom. … Moooommmm!”

“STOP TALKING.”

“I am! I just need to know; why do we have drink coasters?”

Guys. Seriously. These are actual questions I was asked just last night. And here’s my problem — it’s not the failure that is bedtime; it’s not the lack of consistency; it’s not that this takes forever and will never improve because we don’t have the chutzpah to crack the whip — it’s that I have promised them answers to these questions.

Yep — I have unwisely promised answers to questions. “In the morning,” I say. “STOP TALKING,” I say. And “GO. TO. BED!” And when they reply, “But Mom! I need to know,” I promise them answers. Answers I do not have.

So I’m just putting that out there. In case you have answers looking for a home, I will take them off your hands.

Here are some of the things we need to know. Again, just from last night. I’ll have a whole new list in the morning, which is why I need your help. STAT.

  1. “Why do people wear spandex?”
  2. “Is head lice the only kind of lice there is or is there also kinds of lice like foot lice and butt lice?”
  3. “Has Stephen Hawking ever been to space? And if not, because of his wheelchair, that is mean, and they should let him go to space, and how can we help make him go there?”
  4. “Is it bad for boy penises to get fiery and hot and red?”
  5. “How come you never buy us marmalade?”
  6. “What’s the difference between suspended and expelled?”
  7. “How come you always say mean things like, ‘Keep your hands to yourself?'”

Answers welcome.

Sincerely,

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
22 comments
  1. “Why do people wear spandex?”
    To look skinny

    “Is head lice the only kind of lice there is or is there also kinds of lice like foot lice and butt lice?”
    well, no let me tell you..

    “Has Stephen Hawking ever been to space? And if not, because of his wheelchair, that is mean, and they should let him go to space, and how can we help make him go there?”
    lets research a way to help him

    “How come you never buy us marmalade?”
    because Ew!
    “What’s the difference between suspended and expelled?”
    suspended means you can come back if your good, expelled is so bad you have to go somewhere else

    “How come you always say mean things like, ‘Keep your hands to yourself?’”
    Because thats moms job

  2. […] P.S. Parenting children who ask hard questions about spandex, marmalade, and hot, fiery penises is challe…, but parenting Erwin Schrödinger must have been a real bear. Let us retroactively pray for his mother. Bless her, Lord Jesus, and all the questions she endured. May she rest in peace forever. Amen. […]

  3. I usually addressed my kids questions with, “I’m not sure. What do you think?” Doesn’t end the conversation, but it builds critical-thinking skills.

  4. Hey there–first time stopping by your blog! I have been through so many similar questions with my 3 boys and have been irritated to the moon and back with them, but reading your kids’ questions on your blog–now that’s just plain hilarious!

  5. My oldest is four and the question he asks me every night is ‘Momma, can I keep you forever?’. This makes my heart hurt because its so full of love and also my neck and my knees because of the position I’m in when he asks it, crouched on the floor, his arm around my throat, his hand gripping me tightly by the hair. It’s a tiny bit creepy actually but I always say Yes, you can keep me, I will always and forever be your momma but I’m going into the living room now. Then I start to get up and pry him loose and walk toward the door and then he will ask for 20 more kisses and a drink of water and maybe a big glass of milk with a straw and oh I forgot to pee and I should brush my teeth again… You’ve got to nip that stuff in the bud and say No, in the morning, not right now. Then make your break for it because you know the baby will wake you up two or three times in the night and sleep or even quiet time is so damn precious. /sigh

  6. Well, I think you could make a game of it. Tell them to research the answers to all those questions and come up with some amazing prize for the one with the most answers! That gets you off the hook!

  7. I want to believe my daughter employs a million stalling tactics because she loves us, she’s curious, and she wants to stay with us as long as possible. She would prefer to sleep in our bed every night, if we would let her. I try to remind myself that someday she’ll think we’re infuriating idiots, she’ll rather die than ask us or tell us anything, and she’ll want to avoid us entirely if she can manage it. At that time, she’ll probably rather sleep anywhere else than under the same roof as us.

    I try to remind myself, but I fail and get exasperated. For example, on the night I had to put her back to bed 65 times (literally–I counted).

  8. It’s like you’re in my head (or in my house…which is weirder). My preschoolers routinely ask me about death, about mean people, about why they don’t have friends…and I feel compelled to answer because I think these are not Stalling questions; they are Real questions that only happen to emerge right as the lights go out.

    Empathy, sister. Empathy.

  9. Use my mother’s standard answer of “Look it up”…and then follow up the next day by asking THEM the question…follow up until they are driven quite INSANE and MUST research and find the answer if only to get you OFF THEIR BACK – never mind that it will return the “burning” to their brain each time you ask. A cruel but effective method as proven by my mom when I asked “Mom, what does propagate mean?” (as it relates to flowers)…she answered “look it up” and when I didn’t, she asked me just before bed the next night, “So, what does propagate mean?”. Since I had to admit that I did not know, I went to bed and dreamed that it meant that the flowers could grow HUGE and MOVE – like literally chase me around!! Needless to say, I looked it up the very next morning and slept much better that night after having told my mother the meaning of propagate. 😉

  10. This reminds me of Stephan Colbert’s deep thoughts sketches…he and some celebrity lie on a blanket “looking at the stars” and ask these kind’s of questions. Once with Will Arnet they did it in a blanket fort and ate twinkies and hohos while they did it. It was awesome

  11. Here’s how I deal with questions, deep thoughts, and other bedtime delay tactics:
    “Write it down.” Each kid has a spiral notebook and pen on his/her nightstand. If a burning question or profound truth pops into a juvenile brain, the kid can write it in the notebook, and the question or idea can then be explored at a more suitable time.

    In truth, when you’re just working on ways to Not Go To Sleep, you don’t care enough about whatever nonsense is coming out of your mouth to make the tremendous effort to write it down. On the off chance that you do have something weighty on your mind, it allows you to keep it in your memory, ensure that it will be addressed, and not feel dismissed or blown off. It has actually led to some interesting breakfast conversations at our house, and it puts a stop to the Nonstop Question Train.

    The idea arose from my own strategy for combating Mommy Brain – when I think of something I need to do while I’m trying to go to sleep, I write it down (or send myself an email). That way I don’t lay awake worried tha I’m going to forget something and I don’t get out of bed and do it right away so I don’t forget.

  12. And also about lice. In some areas of the world you CAN get bird lice. But I don’t think it happens in our part of the world, and they can’t have babies when they infest people so they die off pretty quickly, unless you have birds in your house for them to live off of.

  13. OH! Also about spandex. Most comfy stretchy fabrics contain some spandex, or lycra which is another name for the same thing. Clothing tags are required to list the different materials the fabric is made of, so if they want they can look through their clothes and see which items contain spandex or lycra.

    Also also about spandex. The same thing that makes it good for shapewear makes it also good for supporting things. So many pregnant women wear belt thingies made of spandex that help support the baby and ease some of the pain in their ligaments.

  14. “Why do people wear spandex?”
    Because stretchy is comfy. Stretchy jeans contain spandex. But too much spandex is UNCOMFY and called spanx and is worn because you want to change the shape of your body. There are many reasons one would want to do that. Most of them are a little silly but there nonetheless.

    “Is head lice the only kind of lice there is or is there also kinds of lice like foot lice and butt lice?”
    Yes there are other kinds of lice. Pubic lice, or “crabs” are the most common. Lice are very specific eaters, and you can’t get human lice from anything but humans and they die within 24 hours if they don’t have a human to suck blood from. But there are lice for pretty much every animal. Bird lice, dog lice, etc. But they won’t hurt you.

    “Has Stephen Hawking ever been to space? And if not, because of his wheelchair, that is mean, and they should let him go to space, and how can we help make him go there?”
    I don’t know if he has or hasn’t. But I don’t think it would have been just because of his wheelchair. Stephen Hawking has Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a where the nerves that control our bodies begin to die. Eventually it progresses to areas like the lungs and then people die because they can’t breathe. It’s a miracle that he’s lived as long as he has. Most people die within a few years of being diagnosed. It comes with a lot of different symptoms that might make going to space uncomfortable or even deadly for him.

    “Is it bad for boy penises to get fiery and hot and red?”
    It depends. If you’re talking about an erection, no. That is not bad. It’s a normal part of being a boy. But if it’s a bright red, and doesn’t get harder and bigger, then it’s probably infected and you should go to the doctor.

    “How come you never buy us marmalade?”
    I don’t know why Beth doesn’t buy marmalade. I like marmalade myself. I don’t buy it as often as I would like though because it does tend to be more expensive than raspberry jam which I also like.

    “What’s the difference between suspended and expelled?”
    At school, suspended means being temporarily told you can’t come back to school. Expelled is more permanent.
    Outside of school suspended means something is held up by something else. You could suspend donuts from a ceiling fan and play with the switch for a really fun party game. Or you could shake oil and vinegar and salt and spices in a covered jar REALLY hard and that would suspend tiny droplets of oil in the vinegar and be called an emulsion and taste yummy on salad.
    Expelled means pushed out. You expel poop and snot from your body. Playdough can be expelled from a garlic press to make gnarly garlic-scented hair for playdough men. And if you add baking soda and vinegar and dish soap to a bottle it will expel foam poop.

    “How come you always say mean things like, ‘Keep your hands to yourself?’”
    When your Mom says stuff like that to you, she’s not trying to be mean to you. She’s probably trying to help you be kind to other people. I’m guessing you want to be a kind person. So while it might SEEM mean in the moment, later you will probably be glad that she helped you learn to be kind even when you aren’t feeling kind.

    1. Apparently you have all my answers. So now I am saved from having to write them down. Thanks! 🙂

  15. 1. Because society has an unrealistic standard of perfection in people’s appearance, especially feminine people, and some people would rather try to conform to that unattainable standard by the use of spandex tubes than make themselves conspicuous by their nonconformity.

    2. Humans get head lice, body lice, and pubic lice. There are LOTS of other species of lice that don’t infect humans, though, like whale lice.

    3. No he hasn’t, and hopefully he’ll be among the first civilians to go into space, but at the moment space travel is barely workable for extremely athletic able-bodied people, so I’m not sure when it will be possible.

    4. That depends a lot on why they are hot and red and whether they are literally fiery.

    5. Because it’s not anything special. Marmalade is just jelly made of citrus fruit. Originally the word referred to quince jelly specifically, which is difficult to find in American markets (which is why we make it at home), but usage expanded in the 17th century to encompass citrus jellies.

    6. Suspended means you have temporarily lost the privilege of attending school, whereas expelled means the school has rejected you from the student body.

    7. “Keep your hands to yourself” is the nicest way to say what I’m feeling.

  16. #3. Dr. Hawking has not gone into space, but he has experienced zero-G. Back in 2007 he went up on a special plane that gives its occupants a few seconds of “weightlessness.” Here is a TED Talk on the guy who made it happen:

    https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_on_stephen_hawking_in_zero_g?language=en

  17. I love the answers above, but I would like to agree with #5. Why? Marmalade is the bees knees!

    I had a super power once. Just once. When my oldest was going though the why why why why phase (about 3, I think), I once WON! I didn’t know you could win, but I did. Because I had answers to all the whys, and the answer to the last one was “because of the aliens” and he just said “oh.”

    And that was the day I was a super hero.

    I could never duplicate the results, though.

  18. Beth, I think there could be a very real connection between #2 and #4 – I’m just saying!

  19. 1.“Why do people wear spandex?” To try to pretend they are aerodynamic.
    2. “Is head lice…” No. There is lice of the body that you can get from unwashed new clothes–it likes to hide in the seams. Causes a lot of itching in body creases.
    3. “Has Stephen Hawking ever been to space?”. I don’t think he has yet. Commercial space flights haven’t become viable as expected and his body is fragile, so it might not be wise. But, of course, he and his doctor would best decide that.
    4. “Is it bad…” Yes it can be. See your dad or your dr.
    5. “How come you never buy us marmalade?” Because you never asked for it at the right time.
    6. “What’s the difference between suspended and expelled?” If you are referring to school punishments, one is more severe than another. (Especially for the parents)
    7. “How come you always say mean things like, ‘Keep your hands to yourself?’” It’s a conspiracy between adults to steal all the fun from a child’s life.

  20. 1.to show off stuff that looks good and suck in things that don’t—it’s kind of a miracle. 2. Crabs-not the kind that is yummy with butter. 3.his brain is so incredible that he doesn’t need a silly tin can to take his out of the atmosphere. He can imagine how incredible it is. 4. Yes and stop doing whatever caused it to be like that. 5.it is sticky aND you would probably take one bite and decide it is yucky and it would live in the fridge for the next 5 years. 6.time and the amount of parental anger. 7. It is my job and if you listened the first time, I wouldn’t have to say it again. Hope that helps.

  21. I love your kids.

    1. because rolodexes don’t fit
    2. butt lice is called crabs. if you think head lice is bad…
    3. they’re working on it.
    4. yes, can be caused by butt lice
    5. because jelly is better
    6. suspended is held above expelled is forced out.
    7. because they’re your hands. you don’t want to lose them do you?

    hope these help 😉

    Melissa

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