Don’t Ask, Don’t Yell


As a young adult, I once heard someone say that “there’s no such thing as a stupid question.” This came as a great surprise to me, because not so many years earlier, stupid questions had been quite common. In fact, my parents had pretty much convinced me that I was a natural spring of inane and idiotic inquiries, a bubbling fountain of foolishness. If there had been no such thing as a stupid question, I could have surely been granted a patent for one.

According to my hazy and frequently inaccurate memory, my parents didn’t handle this particular character trait with a great deal of patience. They may have tried. I like to think they did, at least at first. But I eventually wore them down to throbbing nerve endings, then pushed them close to the edge of their sanity. As they often reminded me, I drove them crazy.

But I didn’t understand that at the time. A young boy tends to be focused on himself, and so I bounced between just wanting to ask my questions and wondering why my parents were so mad at me. Taking those feelings into adulthood, I promised myself and any future children I might be fortunate to have that I would always listen and respond with thoughtfulness and care.

This, of course, is where the faulty memory kicks in and causes trouble. One day, I found myself driving, with my daughter in her car seat in the back. She’d been chattering away, nonstop, for a good twenty minutes and I realized I hadn’t heard a word she’d said. My mind had drifted off to some quiet place with butterflies and puffy clouds. (I may be inventing the butterfly and puffy cloud image. It’s more likely that I was fantasizing about those glass barriers that they have in expensive limousines, the ones that go up and down between the driver and the back seat. They were soundproof, I was pretty sure.)

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