07/25/2014 03:22 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What My Daughter's Questions Have Taught Me

Yesterday my daughter asked me if the sun was pooping.

We were driving home in the late afternoon, talking about stoplights -- how we stop when they're red, go when they're green.

"Mommy, where the sun go?"

I looked up to see the clouds, thin and spreading, filtering sunlight like a sieve.

"I think it's hiding behind a cloud, honey."

"The sun pooping?"

I turned to see her sweet face expectantly waiting, eyes catching daylight. I kept my face even as I explained that the sun doesn't poop. She nodded thoughtfully, then looked out the window. If I had laughed, she would have frowned, covered her face with her hands in embarrassment.

This has happened when she's asked equally adorable questions, like where a bee's mommy is, if she's making him lunch. If the bird in the tree is singing to her baby, helping her go night night.

And I've laughed because I adore her. Because it's a natural, human reaction. Because her questions are lovely. Because I love her voice, her innocence, her open and unfiltered mind.

But the world can be a vulnerable place when you're 2, when there are so many questions, so many puzzle pieces to adjoin. When Mommy laughs at you for trying to make sense of your world.

I see the hurt spread, seep into her posture. She grows quiet, looks at me like I've made her feel foolish. Because I have.

And yet I am the fool -- I'm the one who's taught her that her questions are silly, that if she asks them, I will knock them down, knock her down.

Very thankfully, she hasn't stopped asking. And I've stopped laughing.

I don't laugh when she asks where babies come from. What breasts are for. If clouds are flying. If she can bring all her toys to the supermarket. If she can bring her towel into the bathtub.

I don't laugh when she thinks that freckles are boo boos, kisses every mark on my face in hopes of making me better.

I don't laugh when she asks to play basketball with the high school boys, asks to play at every playground, asks to carry in and unload the groceries.

I don't laugh when she thinks that pictures can come to life, when she thinks that flower petals or banana peels are a threat to her existence.

I smile and explain. Stay even. Clarify, answer. Mirror her interest. Keep eye contact. Point and gesture. Place each puzzle piece with the others, show her how they all align.

And her questions keep coming. Her confidence grows. She reveals her thoughtfulness, her connections being made. She shows me pieces of our world I've never seen, or in a way I haven't considered -- sometimes quite literally. Then she places them with the others to create something new, something I so easily could have stifled.

Thank goodness she's taught me not to. And thank goodness I listened.


Tegan's piano

(photo by Rachael Clarke)