Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/251

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239
CHILDREN'S QUESTIONS.

wonder, therefore, if in their struggle for knowledge, and the efforts they make to learn from the experience of their elders, their whole being becomes, as it were, one big, interminable question!

At times, of course, it can not be denied, the questions become irksome, but who would wish a child to ask no questions? Julius Sturm tells, in one of his pretty fairy tales, how a grandfather, driven into impatience by the constant questionings of his grandchild, exclaimed, "I wish your tongue were out of joint!" but when, unexpectedly, his wish was fulfilled, and the child became dumb, how he joyfully exchanged one of the two years which an angel had prophesied he was yet to live for the privilege of hearing the little one's prattle again.

A child whose questions are not answered by its parents will either turn to others who are willing to gratify its desire for knowledge, but who perhaps are unable to distinguish between what is good for a child to know and what is not, or else it will lose its fine natural susceptibility, and learn to look upon life in a dull, spiritless way, without interest or curiosity. Worse, however, than not answering a child's questions is to ridicule them. Nothing wounds a child so deeply as finding its inexperience abused and its earnestly-meant questions made the subject of mockery. How common a thing it is to hear a child's question impatiently and even contemptuously condemned as "silly"! Yet, in most cases of the kind, the silliness is not with the child, but with the older person who fails to understand how a child's mind works. Every child has involuntarily a feeling of distrust for grown-up people, which is only expelled through trust in the love of its parents. This trust once thoughtlessly abused and shaken may perhaps never be restored to its original purity and strength; and who could have the heart deliberately to impair such sweet confidence?

It is true children sometimes ask questions which it is not easy to answer, at least not in the short, simple form suited to the mind of the questioner. For example:

"Do the little sparrows know they are sparrows?"

"Do animals go to heaven, too?"

"Can God do everything?"

"Can he make my birthday come twice in one year?"

Or, again:

"Why does the fire burn?"

"Why is ice cold?"

To answer such questions may baffle our knowledge, but we should at least make an honest and patient effort to say something helpful. If we can not give all the light we could wish, we can at least give sympathy and encouragement.—Translated for The Popular Science Monthly from the German, by F. M. J.