My daughter has hit that wonderful, heartbreaking age when she want to know all the things, but isn’t quite capable of understanding the meaning behind those things. When my preschooler is asking difficult questions, I sometimes wonder why we don't have to write a special set of exams in order to become parents. Sure, if I have to answer the question “why is it bedtime?” one more time, I may lose my mind, but it’s not those questions that are bittersweet.
My daughter is 4-years-old now, and she has a “why” question pretty much every minute of every day. I try really hard to be patient during the more inane questions. You know, the ones that they already knows the answer to, but ask every single day anyway (like, "Why do I have to wear a jacket today?" Because it's winter and water freezes outside right now. Lordy.). The worst are the questions about each page and character of the book we read each and every night. (It took months of suffering through those before I realized I could actually turn the question around and she would happily answer it herself. Go figure.)
There are times, though, when she will pose a question that my husband and I just have no clue where to start answering. How is it that a preschooler can make you wonder if you’re a good enough parent, just by posing a single question? It’s truly unbelievable. Negotiating the finer points of this stage in my child’s development has been interesting so far. I always thought I’d look forward to when she was talking, but now? I’m both excited and terrified of what will come out of her mouth next.
"What Is That You’re Putting On Your Face, Mama?"
Here’s the thing: I don’t want to raise a daughter who thinks that she needs to wear makeup to look pretty, or feel better about herself. But guess what? If I were to answer honestly, that’s what I’d have to tell her. So what do I say? I haven’t figured out the right thing yet, without lying, which I also don't want to do. Why women wear makeup is, while seemingly so simple on the surface, is truly so complex and speaks to so many bigger social pressures on women... Yeah, I don't know how to explain all of that to a 4-year-old.
"Why Do You And Dada Have To Work?"
Just imagine where this one goes, for a minute: We need to make money. Why? To pay bills. Why? Because it costs money to buy things. Why? Because that’s...how..the..world...works? It’s too big a question to answer easily, yet again.
"Where Did [Insert Family Pet's Name] Go?"
Oh boy. The death question. I know there are all sorts of ways to deal with this one, and we dealt with our particular circumstance of my parents’ dog (whom she loved dearly) dying by telling her that Scooter’s body stopped working and so she died. But she occasionally still asks when Scooter will be back to visit. I don’t even know where to start.
"Why Can't I Have A Baby Too?"
This is usually preceded by, “I have a baby in my belly, just like you did Mama!” and I laugh and ask her when she’s going to have the baby and she gets all serious and says she really does have a baby in her belly. Then I have to explain that no, she doesn’t. And she asks why. And... well, the mechanics of sex are hard to explain to a 4-year-old.
"Where Am I In The Picture?"
When my daughter sees our wedding photos, she always asks why she’s not in them. Children do not understand that there was a time when they didn’t yet exist. Going with a simple “you weren’t born yet, sweetie” will result in further questions revolving around whether she was in my belly and if so, why isn’t my belly big?
"Why Do We Have Guns?"
"What Are These [Pointing At Menstrual Pads] For?"
My daughter asked me this very question yesterday. It actually started out with her bringing out a box of pantyliners, asking if she could do this craft with me. No word of a lie. After I finished laughing, I began to try and explain menstruation to her. She's four years old. So you can guess how that went. My favorite part was her trying to pronounce the word "menstruation." I wish I had been recording it.
"Why [Insert Literally Anything Here]?"
I like to call this the “drill down” set of why questions. You know, she asks why it’s raining; I answer because of the clouds. She asks why there are clouds; I say because of all the condensation in the air. Then she either asks what condensation is, or asks why there’s condensation (and pronounces it “consenation” or something else cute), and I start to explain about weather patterns, and...well, you get the idea. It’s a Pandora’s Box of Whys.