I felt prepared for the idea that, at some point, we’d be inundated with “why”? “Why do I have to brush my teeth?” “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do I have to go to bed?” That hasn’t really happened, although I think it may later.

I was not, however, prepared for all of the other questions.

“Who that?” she asked from her crib tonight, as the floorboards creaked under her daddy’s feet in the hallway. I ask you: how many people could there be creaking around in the hallway? Why does she need to ask? “Daddy,” I answered, and, reassured, she was quiet again.

There are dozens of examples of this during the day. Often, it’s in response to a question which she can answer. “What did you eat earlier?” “What?” she’ll ask. You rephrase the question and are welcomed with another “What?” It’s full of innocence and interest, and it’s completely maddening. “Who lives over there?” “Who?” “Where is your book?” “Where?”

This has begun to happen while reading, too. We’ve been happily working our way through the Moomin books by Tove Jansson, and it’s like munching through a bowl of popcorn or Muddy Buddies or whatever your favorite snack food might be: it’s fun, and you don’t want to stop. Although Finn Family Moomintroll, the second book, may be my favorite up until now, we are currently reading Moominpappa at Sea, the seventh of the Moomin books and one that we’re enjoying thus far.

But reading isn’t just smooth anymore, not as simple as looking at Jansson’s charming illustrations and reading about the quirky characters who populate her world.

Today, for example, we read these lines: “The boat lay on her side with her sail rolled up, looking as though she never wanted to sail again” (43). “Who lay on her side?” ML asked. “The boat. Sometimes boats are referred to as ‘she,'” I told her. We read about the missing key to the lighthouse. When I asked her what they were looking for, she said, “What?” After another “What?” or two, she answered. In looking for the key, Moominpappa approaches the edge of a cliff. “At the foot of the cliff he could hear the murmur of the breakers, the water rose and fell, heaved against the rocks, and then sank back like a clumsy great beast” (46-47). “What breaking?” ML asked. I explained that breakers were waves, in this case, and that nothing was breaking, exactly.

And that’s just from a few pages.

I know that her curiosity is growing. I know that this is how she’s learning what words mean and testing her questioning skills and increasing her comprehension. I know that one day, and probably one day not all that far off, she’ll stop asking so many questions (unless she takes after her Auntie Em!), and I’ll think back on these days fondly.

I also know that, this day, if I hear her ask “What?” one more time, I might start screaming “WHY???” myself.

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Jansson, Tove. Moominpappa at Sea. Trans. Kingsley Hart. New York: Square Fish, 1966. Print.

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