I'm not sure when this why business started. Maybe a week or so ago. No matter what I say these days, I know just what to expect. That telltale widening of ocean blue, that irresistible splash of smile, that simple and stark word: Why?
You need to put the Play-Doh away before your little sister gets it. WHY? Because she is little and she might eat it. WHY? Because little babies put almost everything in their mouths. WHY? Because they are curious and teething and don't know any better. WHY? Because we don't want her to choke. WHY? Because that would be sad. WHY? Because it just would be. Choking is sad.
From what I've heard the why phenomenon is a textbook toddler phase, presumably a time when our little ones are becoming curious about the world, not to mention eager to test our limits. Even the most patient saints among us, when cornered with enough whys, will try to end the inquisition with that simple and solitary Because. Or, some parents will go the Because I say so route. Or, some lovely parents (like the moms whom Nanny encountered at the playground yesterday) will go the Because I f**king say so route.
And get it. I do. (Not the swearing at your kid, but the frustration part). Truth is that being barraged with the same question over and over, one which often does not lend itself to a simple answer, is tiresome and can be (gasp) annoying.
BUT. However irksome its echo, why is a wonderful word. Perhaps the most wonderful word.
Truth is, I'm a bit biased. Because in many ways I am like Toddler. On any given day, I ask myself why countless times.
Why am I anxious? Why am I blogging? Why did I leave the law? Why do I want so many kids? Why don't I cook? Why Manhattan? Why does my little girl say why so much?
And often there are no answers. No simple answers at least. But, for me, the mere asking is cathartic, tantamount to food, shelter, breath. Curiosity compels me to do things, to try to understand them. Curiosity propels me forward, question by question, day by day. Asking questions, chasing answers that elude me, gives my life meaning, depth, fluidity.
So when Toddler, darling Toddler, peppers me with that question, pinning me with those inquisitive eyes and wry smile, I will do my best to temper my parental frustration. And each and every time, I will give her an answer. An imperfect answer. One that will invariably beget another question. In these moments, I will remind myself how important questions are to my happiness. And maybe already to hers. When she buffets me, tests me, I will pause and look at her. And see who she is. Not a fungible being going through a predictable developmental stage. But a person. A little person with a big mind. A tiny me. A pint-sized philosopher. With countless years and countless whys ahead of her.
Seasoned parents assure me that this why thing is just a passing phase. I hope not.
Is it all why, why, why in your home too? How do you handle this word?