I’ve been asked some cringeworthy questions in my five years of being a parent. Add that with the fact that my daughter’s inside voice sensor seems to be broken (the faulty mechanics are hereditary) and I’ve been put in some pretty awkward situations. 

“Mommy, why does that lady have green hair?” (The woman was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with my daughter at church.)

“Is that a man or a woman? Because I can’t tell.” (This person was making eye contact with my daughter at the park when she talk-yelled this question.)

Or most recently:

“Why won’t God bring people back to life even when I prayed?”

The preschool phase is filled with questions we’re hardly ever prepared to answer. These rapid-fire interrogations, often asked at some of the most unexpected times, leave us feeling all kinds of ways—from inadequate to frustrated to mortified. And if your home is anything like mine, you feel like you can’t catch your breath before the next hard inquiry is hurled your way. And if I’m honest, nothing makes me feel like a not-so-great parent more than when I can’t answer one of my kid’s questions well. 

As difficult as these situations are to be in, these questions aren’t without purpose: As our kids grow and develop, at the heart of most of their questions is the search for safety, stability, and in whom and what they can trust. When I’m met with a particularly befuddling question, I try to take a breath and remind myself that my kid is like an alien on a new planet—everything seems interesting and she won’t know what something is until I tell her. And if I think about it even further, I should feel honored that I get the chance to shape the next generation through my intentional answers.

So, what is required of me during this preschool phase? Well, for starters, unmeasurable amounts of patience—for both me and my kid. It will also take me looking inside myself to find out why some of her questions trigger any negative feelings within me and explore that further. I also have to be okay with the idea that I may not have all the answers and I’m not expected to. There are a lot of things that are required of me as a parent, but perfection isn’t on the list. 

And while we’re all learning and growing through this phase together, never underestimate the power of these phrases:

“I don’t know right now, but I will talk to you about it again when I do.”

“Let’s look up the answer to that together.”

“Let’s see what you know about that first. What do you think?”

“That’s a very good question, but you’re a little young to understand the answer right now. I promise to answer your question when you’re older.”

Looking to be intentional about parenting your preschooler during this phase? Check out the Parenting Your . . . book series to learn how to parent your preschooler well.