Once upon a time, before I had children, a friend told me her son was going through a phase of constantly asking why about everything. It was driving her mad, she said, and she tried to change the subject rather than answering whenever possible. I didn’t say anything, but I remember thinking that it seemed a shame to fob him off like that. He was just curious about the world, wasn’t he? Shouldn’t his parents try to foster and grow that curiosity?
Fast forward several years and I’m right in the thick of it with my three-year-old son. This is a fairly typical conversation.
Him: Can I have a snack?
Me: Because you’re in the middle of eating your lunch.
Me: Because it’s lunchtime.
And on. And on. And on. I hate being defeated but there is simply no answer to this question in many cases. A quick poll of my friends revealed that the why questions can be:
Embarrassing, as in ‘Why is that man bald?’
Tricky, as in ‘Why is it raining?’
Impossible, as in ‘Why don’t you have a willy, Mummy?’
I’m mortified that I silently judged my friend all those years ago, now that sometimes a day full of whys can lead to a why question of my own. Why did I have children, again?
My son is trying to make sense of the world. I understand that, and I love it. I love seeing things through his eyes and sharing in his excitement over the most mundane of things, like when he made me go up and down an escalator for a good twenty minutes recently. And why is important. It’s essential. But it’s also the bane of my life.
And then, just when I’m fantasising about running away to live alone on a desert island, he’ll surprise me. Like today, when he asked ‘Why do you love me?’ Now there’s a question I can answer all day long.
Laura is a copywriter, blogger and unpublished novelist. She lives in Leicestershire with her husband and their two children – Joseph (2) and Elodie (3 months).