Keep asking "Why?", a letter to my niece and nephew

Keep asking "Why?", a letter to my niece and nephew

2019 July 225 min read

Dear Esmee, Dear Davy,

How are you doing? Hope you're doing fine. I know we don't see each other often. And I know that's mainly because I am "very busy". So you're probably wondering why I would write you a letter. Well, that's a great question!

I wanted to talk to you about the innate curiosity and inquisitiveness you have as a child. How often do you want to know how something works? Or why something is the way it is? You know, both are excellent questions. Even when grownups like your mom and dad, your teachers, neighbors and the old people at the playground say you shouldn't ask so many questions, and just need to listen.

You know, grownups hate it when you ask these questions. That's because they say they are all very busy (just like me). They need to go to work, do groceries, clean the house, mend stuff, renovate the house and take care of you. Answering questions takes time and effort that they are just not willing or able to spend.

Quite frankly most grownups have gotten way too serious. They have forgotten they were kids too. I know that might sound strange to you now, but your mom and dad, your teacher, even me were also little kids once. We were curious and asked "why" a lot too.

And now that we are old, we forgot how much we as kids already understood. You know, grownups get a little arrogant and think they are smarter than kids. But you kids are already really smart. I'll tell you a secret: grownups aren't smarter than children. That's just not true, because adults also have a lot of questions. They just happen to have different questions.

So why don't grownups play and ask questions you might ask? Why do they get so serious? Again, great questions. When you go to school, teachers make sure everybody does things exactly as taught. You shouldn't ask too many difficult questions. For example, if you're bad at math, they don't tell you why math is the way it is and why you should do it the way they teach you. You just need to practice more or you're just bad at math.

I think that's a pity. Through school grownups lost their curiosity and inquisitiveness. And now they are too lazy and quite frankly too scared to find the answers to the questions kids like you ask them. Because asking "why" can open up complete new worlds.

And I know, because I didn't ask the questions I had when I was your age. I did exactly what people told me to do and think up until I was 30 years old. It was then that I started asking "why" questions again. First on my own, later with Diana, and they opened up a complete new world. That's why I'm so busy now. I'm exploring a new world right now and building forts there. Just like you would do in a new house, in a new garden, or in a new piece of forest.

I learned that the questions you have as a child, don't magically go away when you grow up. You still want or even need them answered. And the longer you wait with asking them, the more embarrassed and ashamed you get for even having those questions. So if you have a question now, ask it! Don't ever let grownups discourage you. Be inquisitive. Embrace your curiosity.

If I could give you one single piece of advice it would be this: Ask your parents, ask your teachers, ask the pastor, ask the neighbors, ask the owner of the playground, ask everybody who tells you to do something "why". They will hate it, but it will make you a stronger person. It will foster your creativity and keep your mind open to new possibilities. You want to know another secret? All the smart, rich and successful people ask questions, a lot.

They do that, because by asking "why", you will learn about your past and your future. And if you know those, you will know exactly what you have to do now, in the present, to become a better you in the future. You will learn that you are capable of doing anything you want. Because if you ask "why" you can't do something and then keep asking that question, ultimately the only answer is: you don't want to because you're scared.

And that is exactly why grownups don't like questions. They are scared of the answers. So now that you know that, I hope you understand that your questions are not the problem. Your questions are perfectly normal and you should ask them. And if someone doesn't want to answer your question, ask someone else.

I know this all probably sounds vague and incomprehensible and that is fine. Know that you can always ask me: "Why?".

Lots of love, Uncle Joep