I was looking forward to the "Why?" phase when my offspring would call on my knowledge and wisdom to explain the workings of the world. But if the truth be told, that moment has arrived and now it's driving me berserk!
Here's the scene: I'm taking my daughter to the public toilet in a ferry to France. We're in the cubicle, she does her wee, and afterwards I think I may as well take the opportunity to go too.
Daughter: Why do you stand up for a wee wee Daddy?
Me: Because I'm a man.
Daughter: Why are you a man?
Me: That's how I've been made. Some people are made girls, like you, and you need to sit down when you do a wee. Other people are made as boys, and they need to stand up, like me.
Me: I don't know. We're just made like that.
Daughter: Why are we made like that?
Me: Nobody knows why – it's a surprise when we're born. Shall we find Mummy now?
Daughter: Why is your wee wee yellow Daddy?
All these questions!! (and especially when they break the golden rule of not talking in the male toilet!). Does the "Why" phase drive you nuts, or is it just me?
Here's the thing. My answers aren't good enough to satisfy the curiosity of my ever thinking three and a half year old daughter. My detailed explanations of the world and its peoples are simply followed with another "Why?", and sometimes, with that little raised intonation at the end to really drive home the question.
And to be painfully honest...it's a little bit annoying as well.
Then there's the disappointment that perhaps the "Why?" question is a sign of laziness on the part of my child – and that hurts me. I need to explain things because my child is too lazy to think of or remember the answer herself.
But this can't be the case! Surely my children (just like yours...) are not only the most lovable and cutest little things, but also the most creative, the most imaginative and the most intelligent kids on this planet. It's just not possible that they don't understand why we need to put our coats on!
It was while I was getting in a mess trying to explain why utilising the properties of thermal insulation is a good idea in the snow that it hit me that "Why?" isn't a call for explanation, or for help to understand how the world works. It's a plea to be spoken to. To be included. To experience interaction. A prompt for attention.
When my daughter is asking "Why do we need to put our coats on Daddy?" she doesn't want to be told it's cold outside. She doesn't want to know that the coat will keep her warm. And she doesn't want to hear me muttering under my breath about how poorly made the zipper is and how annoying it is when it catches.
Here's the thing...she just wants to be spoken to, not answered. She's a person, not a little mannequin to be dressed and shoved out in the cold.
So the "Why?" is a painful poke in the ribs, prodding and accusing me of not being a good enough Dad by not showing enough interest in my child and what she does. How terrible is that? Very.
I need to change, not my daughter.
What can I do?
I figure avoidance is the best cure. I need to talk to my daughter. And include and involve her in everything. I shouldn't fool myself; she's always watching and observing and taking things in, even when I think I might not be giving her any attention. I may as well provide the explanation, the commentary sub-title to the movie of real life.
Admittedly, I can't always talk freely (for example, in male toilets...) but as much as I can I must talk, talk, and talk to her! It's great for bonding, and it will help her to grow and develop. After all, my children are my legacy...who's going to moan about those coat zippers when I'm gone?!
These other tips might help, but I think it's more of a symptomatic relief than a 'cure':
- Beat them to it "Blah blah blah...but I don't know why." That said, we might get the "Why don't you know why?"!
- Encourage them to think for themselves and throw it back to them. "Do you know why?"
- Turn it into a game. "Now I'll ask the questions and you tell me why!"
- Yes, the "Why?" can be maddening, but in its own way, it's an interesting phase to work through.
Please don't ask me why.
Paul Wandason is a father of 2, husband of 1, master of none! He says he is living his life wrapped around 2 little fingers and under 1 thumb...and loving it!
Blogs at: From a daddy