That’s my kids’ favorite word.
Because they ask it a lot.
I don’t know why. I guess there’s a lot about the world they don’t know.
“Why.” That’s my kids’ favorite word. Why? Don’t ask.
Because they just got here. A typical three-year old has only been speaking English for a year or two, and he still gets funny pictures in his head when you say things like, “Hold your horses,” or, “When Mommy comes home, she’s going to have a cow.” So he goes through a stage wherein he conducts scientific experiments to see how the world works. Like he wants to know: How many questions will it take for the vein in Daddy’s head to explode? What noise will it make when it explodes? And will Mommy yell at him for the mess it makes on the floor?
Also, it’s very possible that the reason children ask “Why?” so much is that they can’t properly express what they really want to ask, and they’re frustrated that you’re not addressing what’s bothering them. For instance, let’s say you tell your child, “Mommy and I are going out tomorrow night, so we’re getting a babysitter.” And your child goes, “Why?” Now, you think he’s asking “Why do I need a babysitter?” So you say, “Because you need supervision.” But what he really means to ask is, “Why are you going out, how long will you be gone, and why can’t I come along?” And your answer didn’t cover any of that.
So he asks again: “Why?” hoping you’ll answer his question this time, and instead, you assume he’s asking, “Why do I need supervision?” So you go further on your little tangent: “Because the last time we left you alone, you put on all the band-aids!”
So your poor child, who is beginning to think you’ll never answer his original question, and can in fact barely remember what it was, asks again: “Why?!” And you come back with, “I don’t know why. You tell me why.”
So now you brought the question back to him, and he’s stuck. And then the next night, when you say, “Okay, we’re leaving now,” he’s going to ask again: “Why?” and your head will explode all over the place, and he still won’t have an answer to his original question.
But it’s not like we understand everything our kids do, and we don’t really have the luxury of asking them “Why?” because our why’s are more long-winded and will only end up confusing them and spending more time on a topic that we frankly don’t even want to be discussing in the first place.
For example, why do kids feel the need to put everything in their mouths? All day long I’m telling my kids to stop eating their toys and their shirts and that sticky stuff that teachers use to hang pictures on the wall. But then when it comes to mealtime, they don’t want to eat anything that isn’t noodles, or hot dogs, or pizza. Is the food I make really worse than chewing on a kippah for three hours? Or drinking bathwater?
(Of course, that last one is our fault. We keep giving the kids bath toys shaped like cups, and they can’t help that they don’t understand the difference between cold water that comes out of the fridge and lukewarm water that they’re all sitting in.)
And why do kids not realize that people can hear them when they talk? My kids are incredibly shy – they won’t talk to people within the first hour of running into them, don’t do anything cute on demand, and won’t even talk on the telephone – we just hold the phone up to their ear, and they communicate with the other party by shrugging. But they’re not hesitant about asking their “Why?” questions in public. “Why is that lady fat?” “Why does that man have hairs in his nose?”
“Ssh! He doesn’t know he has hairs in his nose!”
Why do kids need to take every toy out of the closet when they’re not going to play with any of them? Is that the game? And what is this obsession with playing house? Sometimes my kids invite me to play house with them, and I usually say no, because I run a house all day, and the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is play more house. For me, it’s like playing “life.” What fun is that? Plus, they only do the fun parts of house, like shopping and mealtime. They never have a situation where the Mommy has three minutes to clean up because the in-laws just called to say they’re in the neighborhood, or where Daddy has to run off to Home Depot with a little piece of the house that fell off and that he doesn’t know what it’s called so that he could look for another piece just like it.
And what’s with all those illogical fears? There are so many things to genuinely be afraid of in this world, but their prime concern is that they’re going to get sucked down the drain of the bathtub. My three-year-old son Heshy used to be scared that I’d fill the tub to the top of the shower curtain, and he’d have to swim up to get out. And what are the chances there’s going to be a monster under your bed the very night that you read a story about monsters, when there haven’t been any monsters until now? Do you think the monsters know you read a story about them? And how on Earth is a monster going to fit under there with all of the dirty socks and pajamas? And speaking of dirty socks and pajamas, do kids have some kind of pathological fear of the floor, that they have to keep it covered at all times?
And why did we waste money on beds? The kids never want to go to bed. Even if we come home way after their bedtimes, and they fall asleep in the car, they still don’t want to go to bed. We walk in with the luggage and find one kid asleep on the couch, another on the stairs, and another on the floor of the bathroom. Also, if there’s a monster under your bed, wouldn’t it be safer to sleep on top of the bed, rather than on the floor right next to the monster?
I guess my point is that there are certain things that you can get away with as a child, and society, rather than asking why, would rather just look the other way, or count to three. It’s a good thing kids are cute.