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The why of it

January 12, 2016 The Wine Time Dad 3 Comments Category : , , , , ,

"Well um how we gon' get there?"
"By car."
"But how?" 
"Are we flying?"
"On a boat?"
"Are we in a car?" 
"Whaaat?!? We’re notin car?"
"Yes… But, um... How we gon' get there?" 
"By car." 
"But, why?" 

The toddler has, as expected, come full circle again. With an inquisitive twist. 

‘Why’, ‘how’, ‘what’, to a lesser extent, ‘where’, and sometimes ‘who’ are the beginning and end of almost every conversation piece. It doesn't usually matter what the answer is or even if it's satisfactory. All that really matters is the interaction, and the stimulation derived from drawing the conversation on as long as possible. Which isn't, by the way, necessarily a toddler impulse as many adults do it, probably for similar, if a bit more complicated reasons. But, adults don't usually perpetuate the conversation by asking "why" six times when looking for the reason a butt smells (true inquiry, that). Even the least of us highly intelligent mammals endeavors to be more circumspect than that.

Whether or not we have kids or extensive experience with them, we all are aware of this ‘why’ phase. From 2yr olds to (maybe) 9yr olds, they are referenced in this type of ‘Q and A context in virtually every form of expression. Been so for millennia. Movies, books, TV, radio, comics, songs, most likely the bible, etc., have all bombarded us with examples of this goddamn tedious… exceptionally inquisitive phase that developing humans beings, the world over, go through.

In my naivety, I assumed, as many uninformed average parents (as opposed to the super-parents out there), that the ‘why phase’ was about gaining understanding through repetition. Maybe it isn’t clear that cats meow and dogs bark after the seventh ‘why’. And, since a toddler’s experience and knowledge are extremely limited, whatever answer you give is likely to invite more confusion. As all of you who’ve spent several minutes trapped inside one of these gravitational inquiry-wells know, this does happen. You simply cannot scratch that fucking ‘why’ itch with facts. Maybe you'll need to further refine the question?

We have but a few choices to combat the endless tide of questions:
1.     Continue to idiotically answer questions.
2.    Scream your frustration and run away.
3.    Just say, “I don’t know,” (high percentage of effectiveness there).
4.    Or, have a conversation about the question that avoids the short answer (higher percentage of effectiveness).

I’ll admit to a modicum of frustration when dealing with all the pressing questions, and how I deal with it depends on the current state of my attention span. While I try not to inform the toddler of my lack of knowledge on any given topic, because I am omnipotent and omniscient in her eyes, “I don’t know” has stemmed the deluge of questions.

However, this has recently backfired on me as now the toddler uses it. She uses it with a smirk…

… Because she goddamn well knows the answer.

Further back in time, when this stage first started, my wife and I deigned to follow the toddler’s lead and try to answer questions, ad nauseam. We’ve both caught ourselves giving overlong explanations before realizing its futility. Yet, we have learned to streamline and simplify our big people answers in order to find the shortest distance between inquiry and answer. Simplifying our answers and explanations has almost become an art (or so I’d like to think), which is sadly lost on the next expected 'why'. I often find myself wanting to politely remind people that their answers are too long and that the kid’s eyes have already glazed over, but they all reach this conclusion anyways.

As time went on, I decided to limit myself to 3-4 responses, usually repeating the first answer last. Every once in a while, for shits and giggles, I’ll keep answering the toddler with the same answer 15 times before she gets angry.

Occasionally, I’ve try to rationalize with the toddler by informing her that the question she’s just asked isn’t the right question. Maybe she should think of a better question, hmm? This tactic, however, has identified me as actualidiot, as my cleverness is always questioned and answered by the ubiquitous ‘why’.  
I’m convinced that toddlers don’t even hear the answer. What they really want is your attention. They don’t want an answer; they want a conversation.

Any quick Google search will confirm this through an infinite number of anecdotal accounts. Many doctors have weighed in on it, and they’ve discovered that toddlers most certainly don’t want answers; they want your undivided attention. Until that attention is given. At which point you may need to fuck off.

This last revelation has begrudgingly been hammered into my stubborn brain. I’ve learned there is no way to gracefully sidestep a toddler’s pressing, but distracted investigations.

We should take heart, though. This is our chance to fabricate some creative answers. You know, mess with them:

“… Because butts are smelly sometimes.”
“But, why?”
“Well, do you think it’s because there are angry poop dragons living in your tummy?”
“Yes… No!”


*I’m giving myself +1 editing pt for reducing the high number of expletives in this post.