Tuesday, August 8, 2017

All the Things My 3-Year-Old Wants to Know "Why" About

Child development is a funny thing. You celebrate every nonsense syllable your baby makes. He morphs into a toddler with a growing vocabulary and then one day around his third birthday, he learns the word "why."

Before you know it, you're caught in a tsunami of "why" questions more relentless than that Chumbawamba song about getting knocked down and getting up again.

I've heard about this before. I even thought I'd experienced it when my other children were that age. But never in my life did I imagine it was possible to this level.

My fifth child is now 3 years old, and the number of "why" questions he can (and does) ask on a daily basis boggles the mind. My other children were complete amateurs compared to this kid.

Every day is an incessant flood of whys. An avalanche of whys. A nonstop barrage from a machine gun with an ammo belt full of whys.

He asks why it's lunchtime, why my shirt has stripes, and why it isn't raining. He asks why school buses go to school and why is that the moon.

He wants to know why there's a car parked outside the bank, and also why I don't know why there's a car parked outside the bank.

When we're driving around he looks out the window and gives me the third degree: "Why is that car going that way? Why is the girl walking on the sidewalk? Why isn't the brown truck driving? Why is that dog in the driveway?"

I think he believes I'm some sort of omniscient being, because he's constantly asking me why everyone in the world does everything.

In theory, I love his unbridled curiosity.

In practice, I tell him not to step on his toys and he asks why, and when I say it's because I don't want them to get broken, well, he wants to know why about that, too.

With every reasonable answer I give him, there's predictably another "why" waiting, each one more nonsensical than the one before. Here's an actual conversation we had on the way to the grocery store:

"Why did we go up?"

"Because we went over a hill."


"Umm... because... there's a hill on the way to the store?"


This could go on all day.

In theory, I love his unbridled curiosity. In practice, it makes me want to tear my hair out.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

Occasionally I might humor the question, explaining how landforms are created and how this very hill came to be on the way to our beloved grocery store, but do you know what? He's not listening. He's not even mildly interested.

I know because he doesn't let me finish before interrupting with another "why."

What possesses him to do that? I've often wondered to myself in exasperation. It's more of a hypothetical question than anything.

But the other day I stopped in the middle of another interrogation and really asked myself: wait... why does he do that?

And I think I know.

When I was a teenager, I spent hours on the phone. You did it too, with your best friend or maybe your boyfriend. And I'll bet you spent a lot of time talking about nothing. You traded meaningless phrases and talked about things you didn't even care about, just to keep hearing their voice.

It wasn't the information that mattered, it was the interaction.

For this small slice of time, I'm fortunate enough to be that person for my 3-year-old. The one who means so much to him he'll say anything to prolong the conversation.

He'll learn more sophisticated ways of doing it when he's older. But for now he's only three, and his current repertoire is pretty limited. He pulls out "why" from his arsenal so often because it's the best he can do and it works.

This morning, that thought was still on my mind as my 3-year-old sat at the breakfast table, grilling me with "why" questions about last night's thunderstorm.

When I started to get tired of the follow-ups, I decided to throw him a "why" of my own: "How come you ask so many questions?"

"I dunno," he said, taking another bite of his breakfast.

"Well," I sighed, "I love you."

With a mouthful of cereal he immediately replied, "Why?"

I should've seen that one coming.

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Laura Darling said...

Aww, loved the ending. Those little brains are so curious!! :)

AnneMarie said...

This is so sweet! I'll keep it in mind for a few years down the road when my little guy hits that phase :) (thankfully, he's currently at the adorable stage where his communication is limited, so he can't say "no" or "why," he mainly says "yay!" and looks cute)

Ann-Marie Ulczynski said...

I'm reading the book you recommended, "Hold Onto Your Kids," and he speaks of this exact thing. One time with my four year old I honestly answered each and every why question for a seven mi use drive. Forty seven questions later I gave up.

Jenny Evans said...

It really is not about the information (most of the time, for preschoolers) which makes me feel better and worse at the same time!

Jenny Evans said...

I love it when they say 'yay' and clap for themselves. I sometimes think I should do it. What a confidence booster!

Also, one of my daughters used to call a slide a "wee" for years because that's what we always said when she went down it.

PurpleSlob said...

Yup! The why? Can drive you crazy!