My kids have not stopped running their mouths since birth. They have a lot to say, mostly in the form of questions. I’m not knocking their rampant curiosity; it’s a wonderful thing to see the world through their innocent eyes. However, their constant grilling exhausts me and, more often than not, it stumps me. Daily, my kids ask me, "But why?" and I don't have an answer. At 9 and 6, their questions have grown to be more sophisticated, and at least a natural part of our discussions. When they were toddlers, though, I swear they were throwing these curveball questions at me for the sheer sport of it.
For a while I tried the response, “I don’t know, but we can look it up.” This never satisfied them, though. In fact, they got a little annoyed at their mother’s apparent stupidity. So then I started answering their question with a question, like, “Well, why do you want to know?” This tactic failed miserably, as it just launched them into a frustrated meltdown. Then I just started making stuff up to keep them quiet. “You want to know why you’re not allowed to climb out of your crib? Because Santa is watching.” I hated myself a little for that. A little.
Looking back at the inane litany of questions my toddlers lobbed at me, I would want that kind of torture over uninspired kids and stony silence. Well, I’d take the stony silence, but since these questions truly tested, if not my intellect, my fortitude as a parent, I don’t regret fostering their inquisitiveness. I’m just really, really glad they go to school and have another outlet for those questions that I just don’t have answers for.
Here are a few gems from their toddlerhood that definitely didn’t make me feel smarter than a fifth grader:
“Why Don’t You Have A Penis?”
“Because I have a vagina,” I responded. This didn’t satisfy him.
“But that’s less. It goes inside. My penis goes outside.”
“Yes, and we’re going to do something about this patriarchal lens through which you are being conditioned to see the world.”
“Why Didn’t I Turn 4 After I Turned 2?”
Let’s back up. My daughter realized that doubling 1 year gives you 2 years, and since2 years follows 1 year, in the birthday succession, the logical next birthday would be 4, so why did she have to bother being 3 years old at all? Admittedly, this makes total sense, so I had no logical answer after hearing her reasoning.
“Why Did Anyone Vote For Trump?”
Disclaimer: my child is not presently a toddler. He was 6 when asked this, but I don’t think he’s that far removed from the black and white notion of one of our presidential candidates being infinitely better for our country than the other. In that way, he might as well have been 2 or 3 or even 15 when he asked this question.
In terms of responding to him, I wanted to be fair, because I want his choices to be respected by others who don’t agree with him when he is older. However, I don’t respect anyone’s choice in voting for the current president. I can’t articulate that to my grade-schooler. I try, though. “They thought he would be good for the kind of life they want,” I tell him, recoiling from my too-generous explanation. He doesn’t buy it.
“Why Are People Dumb… “
At the time, my toddler son didn’t mean “dumb” in a mean way. He wanted to know why people would make choices that hurt others willingly. To him, that is a dumb thing to do. Same, honestly.
I have to be careful with this one, because I identify as a “mean mom.” So he is basically asking something really deep here, as he’s questioning my existence (and my proclivity towards flying off the handle when I see the wet towels on the floor after a kid’s bath).
“Why Can’t I Marry You?”
Flattery will get you nowhere, my boy. Our love has its limits. Also, that is gross.
“But Why Can’t I Have A Baby Sister?”
My daughter is 9 and she still begs me for a baby. She wants someone to shape in her own image, and her baby brother refused to bend to her will, shaking out the hair clips she’d peppered his head with. But a sister, someone who could propose plausible plot lines to the Barbie narrative that didn’t follow male dominated storylines where the sole guy figure — Darth Vader in our case, since we don’t have Ken dolls because they are creepy — gets to boss everyone around would make my toddler daughter’s dreams come true. But no. We’re done having kids. Two is enough. Welcome to my nightmare, kid.
“But Why Can’t I Have Wine If It’s Grape Juice?”
I could turn this into a teachable lesson, explaining about fermentation and sugar alcohol and all that. The only thing stopping me from doing so is that I don’t really understand the process myself.
“But Why Aren’t You Going To Be Alive In 50 Years?”
What I really want to say is that it’s very unlikely I’ll see my 90s, given the atrocious health care bill the House Republicans pushed through. That may be a little over my son’s head, though, so I simply tell him that I don’t want to live forever because I’m already so tired.