I was recently listening to the excellent This American Life podcast, and came across a story that struck a chord. A divorced father unexpectedly gained custody of his nine-year-old daughter during weekdays, and was bothered by the intrusiveness of her unending questions when he was trying to accomplish tasks in the evenings.
Trying to put an end to the interruptions, he asked her to make a list in writing and promised he’d respond to the questions. Her handwritten, single spaced three page list ended up including whoppers like, “What happens when we die? Explain.” and “All of this – why? Explain.”
Several years pass, and the father and daughter are interviewed individually. The father has gone on to write elaborate answers citing ancient philosophers, and then explored his mini-dissertations at length with his daughter. The father feels like answering these questions endeared him to his intellectual prodigy.
The daughter confesses that at that difficult time, starting a new school and relocating to another parent, all she really wanted was for her father to talk to her. She didn’t care so much about the answers as about the time they got to spend together discussing them.
That’s a great deal of wisdom from a nine-year-old.