Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What down dayah?!! What down dayah?!! As my MetroRail train glided into Government Center Station and I prepared to exit, I heard a little boy saying "What down dayah?!! What down dayah?!!". I looked up and saw a five year old standing on a seat by the window, looking out and down, with his eyes wide open and trying to get the attention of his mom, who was looking the other way and ignoring him. There was such a look of wonder on the little boy's face, I just wanted to go over and start to explain to him what he was seeing, to ask him what he thought about it, and maybe to see a little light go on. That desire competed with another, less worthy desire, to go over and shake his mom.

The world will go forward or backward, depending on whether moms and dads respond to the questions of their little ones. When a child is little, a parent has the opportunity to become a sort of expert and guide to his child. If a parent keeps that up, listening for and responding to questions from his little one, then as the child grows older he will develop the habit of bringing his questions to his parent. When our children had questions, we tried to give them not only answers to their specific questions, but also information beyond the limits of those questions, to related matters, to far more than the child thought he or she was asking for. And if our answers went beyond the child's present capability to understand, that was just fine. (Besides, who really knows the limits of a child's "present capability"?) Finally, the child will just love the attention, and the habits of the child asking and the parent responding will persist, however banged around, even through the child's adolescence.

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