Monday, April 13, 2009

My little existentialist

Before I had kids, I always harbored a certain amount of disdain for those parents who just brushed off the "Why?" questions of their children. What is so hard about explaining why it has to be cold for it to snow, or why babies can't talk, or any other number of simple "why" questions? I thought these parents were just lazy, or didn't care about teaching their children how the world works.

Now my harsh judgment of others is coming back to haunt me, because these days, Miriam is chock full of questions that begin with the dreaded "why." The easy ones I can handle pretty well, even on autopilot. It's the existential ones that really have me begging for relief. And I finally understand why sometimes, parents just want to say - nay, SCREAM - three simple words: I. DON'T. KNOW. And just have it be accepted by the child as a satisfactory answer.

These are the kinds of questions I'm dealing with:

-Why is it Sunday?

-Why is tomorrow not Sunday?

-Is that our water bottle? -No. -Why isn't that our water bottle?

-You can hold this [container of cinnamon], but don't drop it. - Why can't I drop it? -Because it might break. -Why? -Because if it falls on the floor, the packaging might burst open and get cinnamon everywhere. -Why? (You see how I try my best and it's still not good enough??)

-Mama, can I watch a movie? -No, (and then, anticipating what was coming) because you woke up and got out of bed during the night. -Why did I get out of bed? -YOU TELL ME. (I didn't say that but I really wanted to.)

-Why is this toilet [at the park] silver?

And so on. This constant barrage of WHY is so incredibly fatiguing that my brain actually seems to cringe when I hear her say that word.

Miriam is also a fan of follow-up questions like, "Or else what?" or "Otherwise what?" in order to ascertain the consequences of any given action. So if I tell her to go in her room for quiet time, she has to confirm the situation with an "or else what?" and then we get into a big why-centered discussion on the merits of me taking a break from my children.

Do your kids have questions like this? If so, WHY?


Kristen said...

Ha ha! I am totally judging you for not explaining the world to your little questioner. Because I will always have the answers for my daughter. (I'm sure I'll get what's coming to me!) I can see that the challenge lies not in being disinterested in conversing with your child (which is where I do tend to judge), but in lacking the ability to truthfully answer such questions--not to mention in a manner understandable to a 3 year old.

christi and clifton said...

I COMPLETELY understand what you are going through. My worst why questions are social etiquette ones. An example: in Target Casey starts yelling "underwear" over and over. I tell her not to and she asks why? I tell her it is not polite and we just don't talk about that kind of stuff in stores. Why? because it is something private that people don't want to hear about. Why? We just don't! AHHHHH! I hope it ends soon, but I think I am out of luck on that one!

Nancy said...


Liz Johnson said...

Hahahahahaha. I am really not looking forward to this stage. And I think by the time my kids are grown, I will be unable to judge any mother for anything.

Crys said...

Soon why will have two new best friends: what and how? Ezra loves potty words, he just loves them but of course as a parent it is your job to train you child out of calling everything penis or poop right, so then he will start doing things likes saying, "Grace you are such a lenis", or "wutthead don't be such a wenis". And then because he wants to make sure that we know what he is doing he will say, "Mom, what does lenis mean?" Ahhh. The hows are also equally as annoying. Probably because Daddy is an almost doctor and we have medical books all over our house he is always asking body based questions. "Mom how does blood get into my body?" "Mom if I lose all my blood how quickly will I die." "Mom how does my brain tell my muscles what to do." So I start in on nerves and electrical impulses but the truth is it really just opens up a can of worms. "Mom how does an electrical impulse work." "Mom what is potassium channel." Sometimes I find it is better to just turn up the radio and pretend I didn't hear the question :)

Amanda said...

I'm glad Lillian isn't to the 'why' stage yet. She is, however, firmly entrenched in 'what's that' territory. This is much easier, I think, except half the time, I can't see what she's pointing at or we're in the car and she's pointing at something across the street. So our conversations sound like: "What's that?" "That's a bank." "No, what's that?" "That's a stop sign." NO, what's THAT?" "That's a man walking his dog." "NO, WHAT'S THAT!?" "I DON'T KNOW."

Britney said...

This morning, my son, 4, asked me, "Why are tongues so wet?", and "Which ABC is the biggest, A because it's first, or Z because it's last?"


Fromagette said...

Right now we have the opposite situation. I'm asking the why questions (why did you poop in your diaper and not on the potty?) and Anna is the one saying "I don't know". I'd better stop asking why questions or the tables will turn sooner than I want!

Nattie said...

Ah, yes. I've found the more complex and the longer the words in my answer, sometimes it shuts them up.

Julie said...

I very much share your frustration. It seems that I get the "why" questions all day long, and it makes Derek mad when I say "I don't know," as if I'm trying to avoid the question. I truly don't know!

And, Evan's current favorite is, "What does (insert word) mean?" With most words, that's a pretty simple answer, but even those can get complicated. And, it has the same chain-reaction as the "why" questions. If I use a word he doesn't understand while trying to explain what something means, he is sure to ask a follow-up.

I just try to convince myself that it is good for my brain.

Kat Clark said...

I swear everything I ever promised not to do I now do. I was the judge-iest pre-parent ever and now I am paying for it. Luckily "why" hasn't happened to us yet. When it does, I'll call you for support. :)


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