Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yes, there are stupid questions

Did you ever have a college professor affirm to the class early in the semester that, "There are no stupid questions . . ." I appreciate the intent of such a statement--the desire to encourage open discussion, the willingness to clarify and explain. But it's simply not true. There are stupid questions. Lots of them.

Medical personnel do stupid questions really well. They are professionals, after all. With the right tone of patronizing superiority they can make YOU feel stupid for not knowing how to respond. For instance:

"How would you rate your pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no pain and 10 being the most severe pain possible.?" What does that even mean? Like anyone knows what the most severe pain possible is? I certainly don't want to test the limits so I can give an accurate answer. And if I had no pain at all, would I voluntarily spend a summer afternoon in a backless blue gown in the emergency room? Mmmm, no. I hurt, OK? Just start the painkiller.

The stresses of parenthood seem to spawn a particularly idiotic strain of questions. I cringe to think of the ludicrous queries I've put to my children. Some classics:

1. "Do you want a spanking?"
Right. What kid WANTS a spanking? Like they harbor a secret wish that we'll swat their little bummies and they've been hoping we'd ask. Do we sincerely want their input on the matter? Doubtful.
2. "How many times have I told you (fill in the blank)?" Oh, wait Mom, while little Johnny runs to his dresser drawer and pulls out the tally sheet. He has kept precise records of everything you've ever said to him and is so happy that you asked. He'll do the math and get back to you asap.
3. "Why did you do that?" This question assumes that there is a logical reason that Susie shoved a bean up her nostril and that she can articulate it in twenty-five words or less before you cut her off with question #2 above.
4. Do I look like a dictionary? Wow. If my kids can't tell me from Webster's at a glance then I've got bigger problems than why the bean went up the nose. Either it's time to drill them with some family-photo flashcards (Mommy. No, not dictionary. Try it again M-O-M-M-Y.)or I need an extreme make-over.

Kids on the other hand, ask really cool questions. They put us grown-ups to shame. But that's a discussion for another day. So what all-purpose stupid questions do you ask your kids? Come on, I can't be the only one! Dish. Or what absurd questions did your parents keep in their arsenal? Make me laugh.


  1. "Do I have to count to three?" Yes, of course, because they hadn't obeyed the first 5 times I asked. One of my children was amazed when one of her college roommates' parents had never counted as a warning to obey. "So what would happen if you didn't do it by the count of three?" the roommate asked. I think my daughter responded with something like, "I don't know. I guess I assumed it would be the worst possible punishment if it required a warning."

  2. My dad used to ask, "Do you want a reminder?" "Reminder" was code for spanking. This is kind of like your spanking question, except we thought Dad calling them a reminder was silly. My sister and I took a post-it note, stuck it to our bums, and let him know we already had a reminder to be good, the post-it note. I don't think he thought it was as funny as we did, but I hope it made him think.

  3. This has nothing to do with parents, but the other day we were figuring out when we'd be ready to leave somewhere, and a friend of mine asked, "are we staying until we leave?"


  4. Heh. Lately we have been trying out the Love & Logic system, where you give kids choices between two acceptable options (e.g. Would you like to use a polite voice out here or would you like to use a screaming voice in your room?). One day, stumped to find two acceptable choices, Richard told Lizzy, "Ok, you can either be nice, or...you can go to your room until you're sixteen."

  5. Haha! Even though I haven't been a mommy very long (my oldest is the same age as Emerson), I can't even count the number of stupid questions I've asked! I do have two toddler boys, after all... ;) The one that's used the most in my house is "What were you THINKING?" I mean really. They are toddler boys. They don't think, they just do. Thinking about actions and their consequences won't come until, well, I don't know when, maybe not until they return from their missions. And yet I insist upon asking it several times a day. One of these days maybe I'll learn not to ask.