If you’re around children long enough, you will experience it. Typically it starts sometime between two-and-a-half and three years. It can last a looooooooooong time.
I am speaking, of course, about the “why” phase.
Kathryn, it’s suppertime.
Because it’s time to eat.
“But why, Daddy?”
Because we’re all hungry. Aren’t you hungry?
“Yes. But why are we hungry Daddy?”
Because our bodies need food. Being hungry is how they tell us that.
“Why are you putting food on that plate Daddy?”
That’s your dinner. You can’t eat it out of the pot can you?
“No. Why are you getting my dinner Daddy?”
“Why are you getting out the milk Daddy? Why are you pouring it into that cup?”
In my case, I’ve already been through this with both of the boys. While they were not quite as insistent as Kathryn, this does not work like the Dread Pirate Roberts’ experiments with iocaine powder – no resistance is built to the maddening insistence of the endless “why.”
Quite the opposite, actually. The bottomless barrage of mind numbing “whys” weaken resolve, test patience, drain mental stamina and leave your head feeling “shredded like lettuce and cabbage (lyrics not safe for work!).”
In fact, researchers have found a distinct brain-draining phenomenon associated with being around children. Dubbed “mommy brain,” this causes memory loss, disorientation, reduced cognition and awareness, and a host of other symptoms that basically sound like “drunk.” My first exposure to this, when Seamus was a wee one, led me to observing that I felt like I had “a cheese grater to my brain.”
Like a drunk, someone confronted with a “why monster” might also find their patience thinner than it might otherwise be. A simple request – Kathryn, put your dirty clothes in the dirty laundry please – is met with a stupefying question – “But why do you want me to put my dirty clothes in the dirty laundry Daddy?” – and all semblance of polite request flies out the window: BECAUSE I SAID TO PUT THEM THERE! DO IT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, the dreaded “why” stage will wear down even the saintliest parent from time to time. Luckily, it doesn’t last forever. The really good news is, if you do a reasonable job of answering enough “whys,” your child will maintain curiosity as they get older and start to learn how to ask pertinent questions instead of inane ones.
However, to help you keep your sanity in the short run, and allow you and your child to live to see that more enjoyable later stage, I’m going to provide you with a good way to cut off the “why” fusillade. I developed a precise response when Seamus was maybe five. In sales, it would be called a word track. It goes like this: “There are many good and valid reasons why, the only one that matters to you right now is that I said so.” For whatever reason, this worked a lot better than “Because I said so” in speeding compliance and ending the questions.
For now, we can hold off on measuring Daddy for one of those funny coats with the buckling sleeves, OK?