Previously, when I considered myself to be a high-flying career gal, I thought the worst word in the world was ‘no.’ “There’s no such word as no! Where there’s a will there’s a way!” I would tell my team enthusiastically. I was wrong. I was stupid and ignorant. The worst word in the world is in fact, ‘The worst thing in the world is a toddler asking you why. All. The. Time.
I like curiosity. I enjoy a thirst for knowledge. Wonderings and philosophising (to a degree) are things I consider to be signs of intelligence. ‘Why?’ from the mouth of a babe is reflective of an innocent mind with so much to learn; a sponge waiting to soak up all that it is presented with; a blob of clay ready to be moulded into a sculpture of tomorrow. I myself like to know the reason behind things. “Just because” has never been a satisfying answer to me. I always want to know why so that I can understand and remember. I used to ask it a lot. I have become slightly more measured in when I use it: “Miss, why is now not a good time to explain what an anus is?” (#truestory from year 10 Biology); but I still think asking why, particularly as an adult, is powerful and that you learn a lot about people and situations. For this reason I will happily answer “Why?” to the best of my ability. I try not to give direction without reason. I don’t expect anyone to blindly follow my instructions, and I am happy to offer explanations. Especially with the Girlies. I am very conscious of it.
With the above in mind, I embrace the word ‘Why?’ from my curly blonde, pale-faced three-year-old. I enjoy the challenge of trying to answer a question in a way she will understand it. Where possible I speak to her like an adult, which has the added bonus of distracting her with trying to repeat whatever word is new to her and she enquires about the meaning rather than the topic, which we have long-since exhausted. This goodwill though, is on my “Good Mum” days. I’m lying. They’re not days. They are patches. Patch is probably too much. Moments. Yes, my Good Mum Moments. You know the times….the first half an hour after they wake up after a lie in…just after you pick them up from school…whilst they’re (silently) eating breakfast. In these times I will happily pontificate as to why eggs have a sunshine in them, or why the colour pink is called pink and not splergimlp. I will patiently provide explanation on why the sky is blue (note: according to Husband, the correct answer is not “it’s a reflection of the sea” but Rayleigh Scattering – dispersion of the colour blue being more visible to the naked eye, to you and I).
But today, I cannot deal with it.
Because today the word ‘why’ does not mean ‘why’. It means I-want-to-drain-every-last-iota-of-energy-from-you-then-knock-you-over-and-stamp-on-your-head:
“Move away from the edge of the sofa or you’ll fall off.”
“Don’t touch the cake pans after they come out of the oven because they are very hot and will burn you.”
“You need to wear your raincoat out to the car because it’s raining and you’ll get wet and cold.”
“Why do I have to wear my raincoat Mummy?”
“You must drink your water or you poo will hurt your bottom.”
“Let’s tie your hair up for nursery so you don’t get nits again. All that shampoo-ing and combing wasn’t very nice, was it?”
“Why wasn’t it very nice Mummy?”
Let me ask you a question. Is my communication unclear? Is there something in my vernacular that fails to provide good reason or justification? Am I stupid, ill-informed or deluded? Have I lost the ability to speak clearly, enunciate or make myself heard? Tough to answer in text form but I hope you trust that I don’t sound that different in real life to how I do in your head. The ‘Why?’ from Girly no1’s mouth is just another habit and comes more easily to her than ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘OK’. But because of the things I have outlined above, I feel compelled to answer. She deserves an explanation. If I am to be successful at this mothering thing then I must answer the “Why?” with an appropriate response and expand her little tiny mind. But somebody please tell me, what do you do in this situation – it could go on forever:
“If you put your hair in your sisters hand like that, she will probably pull it.”
“Because your hair is beautiful and curly and she can’t resist giving it a little tug.”
“Because she’s a baby and they give into their urges.”
“Because that’s what babies do.”
“Because of a biological predisposition.”
“I’m out. Ask Doctor Winston.”
At this point a little puff of smoke comes out of my ears and if you listen really carefully, you’ll hear a crackle like a static shock. I should add here that I have tried other things. The coaching technique:
“Why do you think?”
“Ummm….is it because….can you ask me Mummy?”
“Ask you what?”
“Ask me why.”
“Nooooooo Mummy! You ask me!”
“I am asking you…..oh! You mean ‘tell me’….“
“Yes! Can you tell me why?”
She gets cross and frustrated. So do I. She looks as me exasperatedly as if to say you are the adult. My teacher, my parent. Your job is to educate me and tell me why. What good are you to me if you cannot fulfil this one simple request?! So I try again. Until I am out of explanations and I resignedly hang my head, thinking ‘let someone else fill the sponge with whatever it needs.’
“Mummy, I’m wet. My water bottle is wet too. Why am I wet?”
“Because the car in front braked suddenly, so I had to. Sorry darling.”
“Why did the car in front throw water at my face?”
But why Mummy?
I know every child goes through the “Why?” stage. I have heard many a parent growl in frustration as they answer why their beloved brat shouldn’t eat the squashed McDonalds chip that is resting on dried dog poo. Or why wiping snot on your sleeve is so disgusting that it makes the Child Free Folk gag. I try and remind myself that “Why?” is good, curiosity is something to be applauded. I play stupid games to challenge myself to answer questions until I can no longer answer myself. Mostly I laugh. But some days, I sigh. And I say…”just because.”
Am I on my own People?! Please tell me I am not! If you have enjoyed, please like and share! Thanks lovely readers and friends xx