Asking Questions

The other day during our session about the Middle East (this post is not about the Middle East) I mentioned to Emma that I’d recently read a memoir, I am Malala written by Malala Yousafzai.  Malala is Pakistani and was shot by the Taliban when she was just 15 years old because she wanted to be able to go to school and have an education.   Emma then wrote, “Was she alive after they shot her?”

It was all I could do not to jump up and down with exuberant glee that Emma wrote me this question.  It wasn’t the specifics of the question that made me so excited, it was that it was a question at all.  You see, Emma has never asked me a question like this before.  This is the sort of question she regularly asks Soma, but not me.  In fact, I just wrote about exactly this, a few weeks ago while Emma and I were visiting Soma.  You can read that post ‘here‘.  The question Emma asked is the sort of question I’ve barely dared hope for.  It is the kind of question most people take completely for granted.  Asking a question like this is the beginning of a conversation.  It requires a different kind of thought process than answering does.  It requires initiating a line of thinking.  It is the beginning of a back and forth that we talkers do not often contemplate, but do without thinking.

I know Emma has many questions just like this one, but she is not able to easily communicate them.  This is different from in the past when I was caught in that great abyss of believing that because she didn’t ask questions, she wasn’t interested.  That old way of thinking was so detrimental to her and to our relationship.  The belief that things were not being expressed because they did not exist was so destructive, not just to Emma, her self esteem and growth, but to all of our interactions.  Instead, this was a moment of celebration.  A moment when I just sat in utter admiration of my daughter.

Presuming competence.   Those two words hold so much meaning within them.  Every day I make tiny inroads, little steps forward in presuming competence, going just a little further in my ability to stretch my thinking so that I am embracing this concept just a bit more.  And as I do my daughter is showing me over and over that I have still farther to go.  This process is one of such joy, wonder and unbridled excitement.  My husband, Richard and I discuss this all the time.  How fortunate are we that we have the opportunity to expand our awareness on a daily basis?  How exciting is it that we are in a process of constantly re-evaluating what we think we know?

“Was she alive after they shot her?” Emma asked.

“Yes!  She lived and now has written this book,” I answered, showing her the cover.  “Should we read it together?”

“Yes,” Emma replied.

Em with her string!

Em with her string!

24 responses to “Asking Questions

  1. Yea for Emma…and for you!

  2. Oh my goodness, Ariane! What a great moment in time!!! You ARE DOING IT, love! You are getting it and you are making it easier for her to speak to you!!!! CONGRATULATIONS for YOUR milestone!!!!

    Emma, you must be so relieved to have made yet another hole in the wall! In Olympian terms this must be a Gold in the Triathalon of Communication!

    Love to you all!!
    Wendy and Nick

  3. P.S. On a different note, Ariane, I look at this picture of Emma and there you are. 😀
    Two of the most beautiful creatures on earth, inside and out.

  4. Fantastic!! Over-the-moon thrilled you have reached this place together. Brings tears to my eyes. All my love!

  5. Great question Emma, I thought shot meant she was dead too. A couple of my favorite Noah questions: Do you stop breathing when you’re dead?
    If Mommy could die now and come back as a girl then could I marry her?

  6. Yay!! So happy for you all!

  7. I’m right there on the journey with ya…every time i think I’m getting this presuming competence thing down, my E throws another curveball. Its a constant scramble to try and keep up because I’ve underestimated him yet again. I think my head should be ten miles wide for all the brain stretching going on. I look forward to the day he is better able to communicate so I can hook him up with other autistics…bc hard as I try mommy just will never get it.

  8. I find it ironic that our children are the ones labeled as slow and behind…when I think the bigger reality is its us.

  9. How exciting for you both , for all of us! Love to you both !!

  10. totally awesome 🙂

  11. Yes!! What great progress for you both. ❤

  12. I remember my first question–I was a little younger than Em, and it was to the Vice Principal, whom I felt and still feel is an exceptional person. He did not laugh at it, took it very matter of factly… He was telling another student, as I was standing there also, that he and his wife had a 9 month old baby–I asked “Is that 9 months inside, or nine months outside?” The other student just laughed and laughed and said, “stupid, the baby is 9 months old”–I still had the same question unanswered though, until he said, “oh…(like I know what you mean) he is 9 months after birth”. That I understood. This man made appointments with me daily to attend “class” in his office, and he would try to get me to interact through block games and arranging things, because I couldn’t sit in the open classrooms (they were octagon buildings with no walls separating classrooms), with those lights flickering and the noises bouncing off honeycombed ceilings all over the place!
    My first choices to interact with were not my parents, and when I was sent away from that school, I had only animals to interact with, but was later able to still transfer these engrained pathways I guess, so that interaction with people was possible after I was well enough physically.

  13. I always have people misjudge me for not asking questions, but in my case it’s because I’ve usually figured out the answers without their help anyway( although in some cases I may simply not realize that additional information is available), and since words are draining, it doesn’t seem fair that I should have to waste them just to make other people feel important.

    • I have at times had to ask a myriad of questions about a question on an exam, because the instructor had worded it so poorly that I could not construe what they were asking for. Upon asking my questions they have many times realized that their writing of it was awkward. But back 20 years ago they used to just about tell me to shut up…”either you know the material, or you don’t”. Irrelevant if I don’t know what they are asking me to regurgitate!

      • Yes, that’s true, exam questions are like that a lot, actually! Much too ambiguous for factual response!

        • LOL I got the first part of a research project completely wrong when the instructor gave a cryptic sentence with three commas separating subjects as the title of the work…wow. But what actually happened is the team went through all possibilities of what it could have been and ended up with my first impression !? I used to do that with legal cases also, but the school wanted to see ALL possibly issues, not just the one that would work. I did poorly in their tests and ended up quitting law school.

      • Bev,
        I went to a psychiatrist once to find out in a “which came first – the chicken or the egg” scenario, whether I was experiencing anxiety that kept me from focusing or I had ADD which was creating anxiety. The kind doctor handed me a questionaire, (are you familiar?), in which I was to rate my tendencies from 1-5, “all the time, some of the time”, etc. The answer to my question lies in the scoring.

        I was in exactly the same position as you described in trying to determine how to answer many of these questions. To the point, in fact, where I annotated a large number of them with minuscule scribbles making comments and begging clarification which would then push my “frequency rate” higher or lower. I thought I was helping this man obtain a clear reading which would lead to a “definite” diagnosis.

        When I handed it over to him he literally shook his head in what seemed to be a lethal combination of disbelief and disgust, and complained quite matter-of-factly, ” I can’t score this!”

  14. Happiness to you Emma And your family. How Wonderful! Keep asking.

  15. Emma like my son and so many others you are proving to the world that ‘just because I didn’t say the words doesn’t mean I didn’t know, feel or understand it’. If the rule ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is applied to the general population then let’s insist that we ‘presume competence until proved otherwise’ when it comes go our children and others like them. Can you imagine how attitudes could change? Go Emma and C keep leading by example, you are teaching the world! Communication is not just Talking. X

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