For the third day in a row, Charlie asks, “Mommy, why did Cookie Monster eat the checkers?”
My answer varies a bit every time as I try to give him an answer that will satisfy him, as I try to figure out exactly what it is he’s stuck on.
He eats them because they look like cookies…because cookie monster thinks everything looks like a cookie…because he has an addiction that blinds him to the truth.
“Because he’s greedy,” Finny answers.
“Well, kind of,” I say, “But Cookie Monster isn't exactly greedy. He’s just…Cookie Monster. He eats everything. He loves cookies.”
It’s a lot like trying to explain that when a lion eats a zebra, he’s not being mean. He’s just being a lion. Because I think maybe he’s not wondering why he would eat a checker, but rather why he would eat Abby Cadabby’s checkers, ruin the game, hurt her feelings.
This is just one of many questions I get from three-year-old Charlie all day long as he tries to figure out the world. It’s hard to get through a book these days without a constant firing of questions about every little nuance on the page.
In Duck on a Bike, “Mommy, why does the goat want to eat the bike?”
In Monsters Inc., “Mommy, why doesn't Mike Wazowski have a nose?” (We've apparently already just accepted the fact that he only has one eye.)
In Frozen, “Mommy, what is the soldier holding?”
“A torch. It’s a little controlled fire that allows him to see because it’s dark in the ice castle.”
I try to give thorough answers right off the bat, cover all my bases, but inevitably I still get follow-up questions that I may or may not be able to answer.
“Why is he holding fire?”
“He’s using it to see.”
“But why is he using it to see?”
“Because it’s dark.”
“Why is it dark?” (pronounced by Charlie—da-uuk)
And I’m out. “Can I keep reading the story?”
Finny, who’s also been part of the Cookie Monster analysis, has his own question for Charlie, “Charlie, why do you keep asking Mommy the same question? She already told you the answer.”
And again it’s like trying to explain why Cookie Monster eats the checkers, why the lion eats the zebra, why Mike Wazokwski doesn't have a nose—because this is Charlie at three years old, he asks lots of questions, he loves questions.
And I love that he loves questions. I love that he asks questions. I love trying to figure out how to give him the best answer, how to satisfy his curiosity.
But there is no satisfying his curiosity. And I love this too, deep down, I love this too. Even though quite often I just want to sit in silence, listen to the song on the radio, read the book straight through, watch the show without interruption. Even though sometimes, I sigh, annoyed, exhausted, frustrated that I have to answer one more question about the same thing a different way.
I am grateful for his curiosity. Grateful for his questions. Grateful his little mind is dissecting the world and everything around him. Grateful that I’m the one who can answer his questions or at least try.
I take a nap every day at 2:00 p.m. Regardless of whether Finny and Charlie fall asleep in their rooms, I fall asleep in mine. I need a recharge, a shut-down, a re-boot, a moment of silence.
So that when I get up, I’m ready. I can take it. Put me back up on the witness stand. Ask me again why Cookie Monster ate the checkers. Go ahead, ask me. I still don’t know the answer, but I’m ready to look at it a different way with you, I’m open for discussion, let’s really get to the bottom of this. What’s going on with Cookie Monster? Why does he eat everything he sees? Why is his hunger for cookies never satisfied?
Maybe it’s simply because he’s three. He’s figuring out his world. He’s not satisfied that a circle might just be a circle. He’s wondering if deep down, if he gets a little closer, if that circle might also be a cookie.