Life as an open-ended question

woods via kimberlyanncoyle.com

After mothering small people for fourteen years, I’ve become a master at the closed-ended question. I only want a yes or no when I ask if you brushed your teeth. I don’t need the six point treatise on why you haven’t obeyed or who prevented you from obeying to the fullest extent possible ie: “I brushed but didn’t floss because so and so called me a nasty word, and I couldn’t respond to that nasty word with an equally rude word while floss was in my mouth” You can understand why I’m a fan of the closed ended question, especially after nine pm.

Now that we’ve moved into the teen years, I’m re-learning how to talk to my kids. The small boxes where I filed away their response to my questions can no longer hold the amount of information I need to gather. The yes or no answers of childhood disappear in the same way the black and white responses no longer show up to answer my questions of faith. I haven’t mastered the open-ended questions yet. I haven’t asked them long enough for the questions to slip free from my tied tongue, unfettered. Also, I’m sometimes afraid of the answers.

My friend Michelle began the most important dialogue of her life by asking the question “Why not?” I don’t think she always likes the answer to the question, but she leaves room for the response. Why not, isn’t my first question when it comes to my kids, usually, it’s “what were you thinking?” I want to learn to ask better questions of them. I want to learn to ask better questions of my own heart too.

I forget that simple answers just won’t do anymore. I need to allow for the what if’s and the why not’s, and follow those rabbit trails to the very end of my imagination. We are in a season of decision making, and while I want to wake up with the right answer burning like a flame on my tongue, I must ask the right questions first. I am learning how to live the questions. There, I dwell in possibility.

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  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    I like that you filed this under “thinking.” Such a true observation, how the questions we ask and the ways we ask them needs to change with time.

  • “I must ask the right questions first.” I love that Kimberly. And I’m right there with you!!

  • “I need to allow for the what if’s and the why not’s, and follow those rabbit trails to the very end of my imagination.” I just love this! Here’s to following all those trails to some seriously cool adventures.

    • Who knows where those trails will go! Thanks for stopping by, Kelly:)

  • Beth

    I’m still in that re-learning stage of how to talk to my young adult children but had never given thought to how we do move from the closed-ended conversations to more open-ended. True though. Loved this: “I forget that simple answers just won’t do anymore. I need to allow for the what if’s and the why not’s, and follow those rabbit trails to the very end of my imagination.” Thanks for giving me something to think about this morning. Always a delight to come here.

    • Thanks, Beth:) You always encourage me in the very best of ways.

  • KimberlyAmici

    You are a few steps ahead of me in the kids departments. Thanks for sharing what’s just around the corner. I am a big fan of simple answer too.