Question Time, All the Time – by Jennifer Allen

A scruffy young electrician came to our house to do some wiring. He told a funny tale or two, thanked me for the cup of tea and knelt down on the floor to stick his head into the cupboard under the stairs.

The scruffy young electrician was unaware that the three year-old in stripy leggings and pink slippers, who had been watching all of this from behind my legs, had been quietly waiting for her moment. As I wandered off and he started his work, there she was, bunny in hand, standing right up next to him.

“Why have you got funny trousers?” Katie enquired.

“What are you doing?”

“Have you got a poorly knee?”

“What’s your name?”

“What’s that green thing?”

“Why have you got a hole in your t-shirt?”

The questions started and didn’t stop. I busied myself in the kitchen, smiling and listening to Katie chirping away as I fed the baby, marveling at her relentless curiosity and all the words she had mastered in just a few short years.

I have decided that children ask questions like puppies chew shoes – they can’t help themselves. They hurl them at Mum when she’s sorting out the laundry mountain, looking up with pretend-interest through dry bloodshot eyes, tired with lack of sleep, old mascara smudges and freshly formed wrinkles. They hurl more questions at Dad when he’s just walked in the door, exhausted from energy-draining work, weighed down with unfinished jobs to do and a nagging wish that he was having more fun.

Children soak up whatever answers they can get. They hear the facts, the tone of the delivery, the emotions draped around the words and the inconsistencies with what they heard yesterday. Then they digest, ponder and think up a whole new set of questions ready to hurl at anyone they suspect might give them a quality answer. And so it goes on, until the chatty, inquisitive, relentless little darlings are finally silenced by sleep.

The scruffy young electrician, although quite unprepared for the barrage of questions from this tiny interrogator, was a kind and patient bloke and provided Katie with enough satisfactory answers to encourage her to carry on asking things. Soon she decided that it was her turn to tell him something.

“My Daddy made that for me,” she announced, pointing to the fuse box.