It usually happens at the most inappropriate of times, when I’m tired, after a crazy mad busy day at work, when I’m trying to eat some dinner, or perhaps get a few minutes to watch the news. Generally it’s at the time when I’m probably not in the right mood to deal with it that my boys will start asking me relentless “Why” questions.

Why is Broccoli green? Why does it rain? Why are you taller than me? Why is the unemployment rate still above 8% – ok – that last question is not something my boys have asked but it’s certainly a question I struggle to answer.

We oftentimes take for granted what we know. Concepts that are fundamental to the adult mind are, for children, abstract unknowable objects that have yet to be explored, understood and compartmentalized within the mind. When reading a book last night to the boys, I read a sentence I must have read a hundred times or more “This is an old steam train”. Only this time was different because this time my eldest son Andrew asked “what means old?” This is his new funky way of asking the “Why” question but the result is still the same, that is, I have to stop and think and struggle to explain something I take for granted. How do I describe the concept of old and do I have to explain to him how it differs with the concept of new and the concept of recent?

Kids ask these questions because they are trying to make sense of the world and I’m sure there is a large library of books out there that explain how we slowly but surely place into being the pieces of this jigsaw world. And the world really is like a big jigsaw puzzle, especially for kids.

There is so much to learn for a three or four year old. Words, numbers, shapes, sizes, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, and colors (and that’s just the beginning of it). While it can be frustrating to answer continuous “Why” questions as you’re trying to get their car seat buckled so that you can do the food shop, it’s also a time of wonder and to ask ourselves “Why?”

When I actually get it right and put into words the answer to the “Why” questions, you can almost see the light bulbs of recognition go on in their minds. Andrew will now try and explain back to me the answer to his question as a way to be sure he gets it “so Grandma is old, but mommy is young”. OK – so maybe that wasn’t the best way to explain it.

We are beginning the process of teaching the boys to read. Each night we have begun to do a word search on the page we have just read. We will spell a word a few times and then ask if they can see it on the page. The look of happiness I see on the faces of my boys when they get it right is truly remarkable. You can slowly see those pieces fall into place. Words make sentences, sentences make paragraphs, paragraphs make pages that explain the “Whys” in this world and give us some insight into those big mysterious pictures. And what could be better than that?

What’s the most awkward “Why” question you’ve been asked?

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One Response to “Why, Oh Why?”

  1. You’re so right, when the ‘Why’ question comes up, it always stops me and makes me realize how much I DO take for granted. Did I ask these questions in the past, and just forgot the answer? Or, has it just been too long ago the last time I had a curiosity about something…hmm.

    What was my toughest Why question? Why do babies grow in your belly…oh yes, and, the answer to that one is a doozie….


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