I have a three year old – “A” – and she has a lot to say about everything.
She chats all day and night – to herself, me, her dad, her sister, her stuffed animals, her imaginary friends, strangers, her teachers, and on and on. She started talking early, and she hasn’t stopped since.
However, since about eight weeks ago, her favorite word has become “why.” She asks “why” about nearly everything, and she keeps asking “why” until she gets an answer she is satisfied with.
Sometimes her “why” questions make me feel really dumb:
A: “Mom, why do the leaves only fall off of some trees? Why do they stay on the other trees?”
Me: “Well, that’s the way trees are. Some of them lose their leaves in the fall, and grow them back in the spring, and some of them keep their leaves year round.”
A: “I know that. But, why are there trees that don’t lose their leaves?”
Me: *Blank stare*
Sometimes her “why” questions make me wish I paid more attention in school:
A: “Mom, how come your diet coke makes lots of bubbles when you pour it onto the ice in your cup?”
Me: “Now I know we covered this in one of my science classes. There’s a gas in the can, I think, and then the gas gets released when you open the can….or something like that.”
A: “But it makes more bubbles with the ice than with no ice. How come?”
Me: “Um, I think the gas might somehow react with the ice. I’m not sure. Remember to ask your dad when he gets home.”
And sometimes her “why” questions make me wish that we could all keep our childhood innocence throughout our lives:
(While watching the inauguration coverage a few weeks ago, we saw the motorcade and I was telling her how the President might get out of the car, but that it was dangerous for him to do that because there might be people in the audience who wanted to hurt him.)
A: “Why would anyone want to hurt him?”
Me: (Thinking, why indeed?) Well, there are all sorts of different people in this world, and they don’t all agree with each other, and the President has to make a lot of decisions, and some people don’t like his decisions. So, those people might be really mad at him and want to hurt him.”
A: “But you said it’s never okay to hurt someone.”
Me: “It’s not okay, but sometimes people do it anyway.”
A: “He’s getting out of the car. Is someone going to hurt him?”
Me: “Probably not, honey. There are lots of people there protecting him.”
A: “I won’t hurt him because it’s not okay to hurt anyone.”
Me: “You’re right sweetie.”
Regardless of how her questions make me feel, one thing about them always rings true: they are exhausting. Of course I don’t want to stifle her curiosity, but sometimes I just have to take a break. When she gets into one of her seemingly unending stream of questions, I’ll say something like, “Mommy just needs to have it be quiet for a moment or two okay?” And we take a short break from the onslaught.
She thinks about everything, and seems to have the memory of an elephant. I often wish that I was as curious and tuned into the world as she is. I hope that I’m doing a good job in answering her, and I know I’ll be so sad when she grows up and doesn’t ask me about everything anymore.
I’d like to leave you with this clip from Louis CK, which pokes fun at the “why” child stage. I like to have a good laugh about these things, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Just know that it is filled with cursing and is not appropriate for young ears. Why, you ask? That one’s easy! Because you can’t take life too seriously!