Question Time

And so it begins. An innocent little voice from the back of the car.

“Mummy, are we going to nursery?”

“No, Little Man, we’re going home.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s home time.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve been at nursery all day – it’s night time now.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s gone dark.”

“Why?”

“Because the sun’s gone round the other side of the planet.”

“Why?”

“Just eat your biscuits.”

That was two days ago. I have fielded about 417 other ‘whys’ since then.

why

Everybody knows about ‘The Why Phase’ but until it’s actually happening to you, you can’t fully appreciate the lengths of questioning that a small person will go to. A seeming endless stream of interrogation, automatically responding to whatever you say as if no answer is ever going to be sufficient for the knowledge they must have immediately.

Joe has always been curious, and has asked what things are since he could talk, and we’ve always been able to tell him – but this is on a whole other level.

Some of the ‘whys’ he has asked in the last 48 hours since ‘The Phase’ inexplicably arrived out of nowhere have been perfectly valid questions, such as why he’ll be tired if he doesn’t go to sleep, or why mummy has to go to work. I can genuinely answer these, even if he can’t quite get his head round what I’m saying. Explaining the concept of paid employment to a three year old isn’t as easy as I initially thought it would be.

But please tell me the cognitive benefit to be gained by him asking ‘why?’ to the perfectly innocuous statement I immediately regretted saying this morning:

“We’re nearly at nursery now.”

“Why?”

“Because we’re just round the corner.”

“Why?”

“Because we are!”

I imagine at least half of all ‘whys’ for the foreseeable future will receive this response, or at least some exasperated variant of it.

In truth though, I love the fact he wants to learn more about the world around him and the absolute last thing I want to do is stifle his understanding by not at least attempting to put together a coherent response when he asks me. I can’t bear to see parents ignoring their child whilst they desperately try to get their attention to ask something that is so important to them right at that second.

What started with “what’s that?”, and has now become “why?”, is just a little boy wanting to talk to his mummy and daddy and listen to what they have to say. It makes me so proud when he remembers something we have taught him and he just comes out with it unprompted, his little voice filled with excitement that he can tell us something he knows – “Look, it’s the moon! It’s very high up in space.”

Children’s capacity for knowledge is unlimited, and as parents we can teach so much if we only put in the effort and have a proper conversation with our little ones, when they really do want to understand something. Whilst I will already be glad when Joe moves on from ‘The Why Phase’, I don’t ever want him to stop wanting to learn.

Of course, no-one will blame you for the odd “Because it is!” when you’re asked why it’s bedtime – again.

Einstein

Postscript

I came across this when I was searching for an image and it is too funny not to include. If your child ever asks you any of these ‘whys’, you’d better have a good answer ready.

questions
From xkcd.com

4 Comments

  • The why phase can be annoying but I did like seeing my children curious. I think half of it is them liking to ask and conversate. Either way, they can grow from it. Cool.

  • The truth is, children can learn anything, and they absolutely love to learn, more than anything else. Little kids are hardwired to learn as much as they can, as soon as they can. It’s great that you’re giving him good explanations, because you’re the best teacher he will ever have. You love him more and know him better than any other teacher ever will! And the “why” phase will be over as soon as he can express himself with a few more words, but nurture his love of learning forever! It’s such a valuable;e skill to have!

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