Go on, ask me ‘why’ one more time, kid – make my day!

Why? Why? Why? Why? My kid can string these together with persistence and aplomb.

I said a while back that if I were in a strange land and had only one word I might chose the word ‘no’ – that word has power in it. You can say ‘yes’ with a smile, with your actions, and take time over it… but ‘NO!’ is sometimes a useful word to be able to shout out, if something is happening that you don’t like. I said that when my kid was 18 months old and ‘no’ was her new, favourite word – and I could see why. I supported her fledgling right to set her own boundaries and to affirm her self-determination (even as I am clear about who is the parent and guide, here – I believe in ‘gentle discipline’ not ‘no discipline’).

Now she is 27months old (two and a quarter for those who stopped counting in months) and her favourite word is WHY? It has been since she was two. It goes a little something like this:

– It is raining.

– Why?

– Because the clouds got heavy with water and the temperature changed and it all came falling out of the sky.

– Why?

– Because the Earth needs to be watered, so the plants can grow.

– Why?

You get the picture (maybe you have lived a variation on this scenario many times, yourself).

I try and keep it simple, to appeal to her imagination (rather than feed her intellect – not that you can tell from the above example). She is a child, after all. I want her to enjoy the simplicity of an innocent, magical view of the Universe as long as possible. Sometimes I turn it back on her and ask her ‘why do you think?’ as so many people suggest… but that doesn’t really work on her, just makes her own ‘whys’ louder. I also try the ‘I wonder’ thing, which I LOVE the idea of but actually also rarely works for me (at this age, at least)… although that might be partly lost in translation, as I can’t quite find as rich words for it in Portuguese.

Anyway, the point is this: I have always heard about this phase kids go through. I had been warned about it. And yet, now that I am here I find I don’t hate it… I actually quite enjoy it. I love feeding her the information she is SOOOOOO hungry for.

In fact, I was contemplating the Toddler situation of being dropped on this Planet with the challenge of learning the language, the culture, the family ways, the customs, EVERYTHING from scratch; to understand so much but to be able to control so little. And again it set me to wondering what words I would make most use of in this kind of scenario. If I was dropped on a new continent or a new Planet and I had limited vocab, a burgeoning understanding of what is going on and a driving NEED to figure it all out, find out how things fit together, how things work, what does what, what is dangerous, what is interesting, what is useful?… Everything is so new, so interesting and I am finding out quickly that everything is connected and that there is causality everything that is happening. Yep, once I had gotten over the ‘name this, name that’ stage of learning the language and culture, I’d definitely be on to ‘WHY?’ What other word could help me learn all the things I want to learn faster?!

Truly, I do not feel they do it to bug us (even if invariably it will, sometimes, right? when you are tired and overwrought… but that is your problem not theirs). And yes, sometimes she doesn’t seem to really pay attention to the answers but even then she is, I believe, gathering information, understanding that there is a ‘why’ behind almost everything that happens in this world. 99% of the time, though, I swear, she is using this word as a flashlight, focussing in on interesting events and gaining as much insight as she can in as little a time as possible.

So, along with ‘no’ I am surprised to find I actually welcome and enjoy many if not most of her whys. Bless you my child for your endless, avid curiosity. Long may it continue!

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7 thoughts on “Go on, ask me ‘why’ one more time, kid – make my day!

  1. I loved the “why” stage! It was exhausting, but fun to nurture his curiosity. It was also educational when I didn’t know an answer (which was an awful lot of the time – they ask tough questions!). I’d say (and I still do this), “I don’t know, let’s find out!” Then we’d go to the library or online to find the answer. Fun!

    • I look forward to that – the kind of deeper question and curiosity that leads to us finding things out together. I don’t think we are quite there yet. Mostly they are quick I-WANT-TO-KNOW-NOW questions that can be answered quite easily… and followed by a new ‘why?’ just as quickly. Occasionally I do get to tug at one of those threads of curiosity and follow it together to where it leads but interestingly that doesn’t usually start with a ‘why?’ What I mean is that, for example, she was looking at some eggs in a nest in one of her books the other day and said something about eating them and I explained that we didn’t eat those eggs, they had little birds inside. And so we went off and looked for a YouTube video of little birds hatching… that kind of thing. I used that ‘let’s find out together’ or ‘let’s dig deeper and see where this leads us’ approach on a number of occasions and have really enjoyed it. I certainly look forward to more of that, letting her curiosity guide our joint exploration of the world. But in our household, at this age, I find the why is often of a different origin which comes from a kind of insatiable need to know things have meaning and causes and origins and that adults know stuff that ‘we’ don’t yet. Something like that. Don’t know, myself, still feeling my way through – even though we have been dancing the ‘why’ dance for some months now. :) But overall, yes, I am much more for enjoying it, feeding it than squashing it.

      Love your positive, encouraging approach, too. Yummy to feel all that supportive energy, even from afar :D

  2. Just started the why phase with my third and I absolutely love it (most of the time!) My five and four year old truthfully never left this stage so the why,how,when,where is just growing in scope and like A Nature Mom said when I don’t know we look it up, discover, its awesome!!

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