My newly-four-year-old son is deeply entrenched in the “Why Stage”.
For the past six months he has been constantly asking, “Why why why?” and it’s driving me crazy! Seriously. I think I’ve finally reached my breaking point.
I thought I would be a better parent through this.
Ever since my son entered toddler-hood, I knew that something like this might be coming. Many three- or four-year-old children go through a stage of asking, “Why” about pretty much everything. I imagined myself as the parent of one of these why-monsters, patiently answering all of my child’s questions. Most of them would be easy anyway, right? For the harder ones, I figured I could think of witty ways to get him to come up with his own answers. I am a certified elementary school teacher after all. I guess that means I’m supposed to know how to nurture a child’s natural curiosity. It also means I’m probably supposed to enjoy the whole learning process.
It was a nice dream. But it definitely didn’t take into account how tiring it is to constantly answer question after rapid-fire question day after day after day.
When I was still naive about the “Why Stage”, I imagined that going through this would allow me to earn my “Why Stage” mommy merit badge and be on my way to Super-Mom Status. In my mind this system is sort of like Girl Scout badges but for mothers. In my imagination, the “Why Stage” mommy merit badge looks really nice next to the “Caught Puke in Your Bare Hands” merit badge and the “Survived 17 Hours of Airline Travel with Two Children Under the Age of Four” merit badge. You see? I’m amassing a nice collection here. I’ve been hard at work these past four years. Unfortunately, I messed up my whole chance at becoming a Super Mom because I’m not qualified to earn my “Why Stage” merit badge since I am doing such a terrible job with this one.
Perhaps you are familiar with that scary statistic that four-year-old children ask something like 750,381 questions per day.
I had so much confidence in my Super Mom abilities that I always brazenly shrugged that intimidating number away. I figured that probably about 45% of the questions from a four year old could probably be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. Then I figured that another 45% were probably along the lines of, “Can I have some more goldfish crackers?” The remaining 10% would be more difficult questions. I have never been more wrong! The whole thing is totally flip-flopped. Only about 5-7% of my preschooler’s questions are the easy questions and the remaining 95% of his questions fall into two categories: 1) “Why?” And 2) “But why?”
Here is an example of a typical conversation (while riding in the car):
4yo: Why are there two yellow lines down the middle of the road?
4yo: But why do cars have to stay on their own side?
4yo: Why shouldn’t cars crash into each other?
Me: (Bangs head into steering wheel. Gives up on life.)
My son will ask, “why?” And then as soon as you answer him, he will ask a new why question.
He will keep asking “why?” again and again and again until you do something that forces him to stop, like telling him, “I am not going to answer any more questions.”
This is inevitably is met with, “Why aren’t you answering any more questions?”
Finally, I end up snapping.
And then I just feel so incredibly guilty. Because- isn’t the natural curiosity of a preschooler supposed to be a beautiful thing? Aren’t I, as his mother, supposed to nurture his love of learning and encourage it? I am horribly failing at being a Super Mom through the “Why Stage”.
Some days, I just wish that my little boy could type things into Google so he could figure it out for himself.
I’m that sick of answering questions. And I know that someday, I’m going to look in the rear-view mirror and instead of seeing a little boy who wants desperately to talk to his mother, I will see a teenager who won’t look up from his phone long enough to acknowledge my presence. And I’ll feel like shit and wish that I had been a little more patient all those years ago.
I can’t imagine what my preschooler could possibly be doing with all the information he is gathering. What is he going to do with all this useless knowledge? The only thing I can guess is that he’s storing it all up in his brain so that someday when he’s a parent of his own child who is constantly asking “why?” Perhaps at that point, he will finally have all the answers.