We’ve been in grips of the why phase for some time now.
“Why didn’t we run for the bus?”
“Why have you got lines on your face?”
“Why don’t some people have beds?”
“Why did I wear a skirt?”
“Why is daddy ill?”
“Why do you want to go to bed?”
These are just some of the amusing and heart-wrenching questions that come out of my son’s mouth on a daily basis now that we have entered the why phase. Whether you’re a parent or not, you’ve probably given that sympathetic, knowing nod when you’ve heard a child questioning their parent over and over again because, quite frankly, it looks exhausting and difficult. So imagine my surprise when I realised I actually love this phase. Seriously, this isn’t one of my crappy attempts at a humorous blog post, I genuinely do.
My son has been in the why phase for about six months. Sure, there are times when every response I provide elicits another why and another, and another, until I’m clutching at straws and silently begging for mercy, but there is so much in the why phase that I love.
I’ve suddenly realised I’m raising a person. The challenges in the first couple of years of parenthood can be so all encompassing that you can’t imagine what it would be like to have a real human living with you (or was that just me!). Those lovely, but quite honestly exhausting, repetitive and dull, tasks in the first year or so. Followed swiftly by the exhaustion that is the early toddler stage when it’s all about them running in the opposite direction and screaming blue murder about the way you cut up the toast. It clouds the real truth behind having a child. This why phase is teaching me that I didn’t just create a needy extra appendage, but another life, an independant one with his own opinions and interests.
I am all for the independence my little one is showing, but I also love the chance to
brainwash influence him. Sure I know I can’t mould his personality and beliefs (completely) but I’m going to have fun trying. I have pretty strong opinions on a lot of things – fairness, equality, social justice – all the biggies. I love that I now have a little mind to discuss this with. Of course I simplify it down but my son already understands that he’s lucky with the hand he’s been dealt. Just the other morning he asked, “why am I having breakfast?” “Is it cause I’m lucky?” Yes son it is. I’m all for open talk about the ‘real’ issues – death, periods and love. Now he asks ‘why’ it helps me explain things in a way that’s appropriate for him – he stops the interrogation questioning once he ‘understands’ (in his own little way). Other times, when it’s too much, he jumps on my head or changes the conversation to poo, that soon puts a stop to mummy’s explanations. I for one, am loving passing on my beliefs and values to someone else.
As someone with strong opinions, it’s probably not unheard of for me to stick doggedly to my views, especially in the middle of a heated debate (who wants to lose one of those). Having the chance to explain the world to my son gives me the chance to dissect my own thoughts. Why do I do certain things? Why don’t I do certain other things? What is it I really think? The many layered ‘whys’ my son asks, require sifting through the chaff of my own opinions and finding what is at the core. The other day we found a (fully wrapped) cucumber on the pavement. There was no-one nearby and I didn’t think anyone was likely to come back looking for it, so we took it. Explaining why that wasn’t stealing but taking one from a shop display (also on the pavement) would be stealing, unearths a lot of opinions you never even knew you had. Breaking down the world into a simple what’s fair and what’s not, can be quite enlightening for adults too.
It’s not all about the state of the world today though, my son also asks a lot about practical things. Today I was explaining babies and the internal workings of the body. We got onto why babies need mushed up food and how stomachs work. As I was explaining I got to thinking how we are pretty impressive machines – it’s easy to forget this in the hustle and bustle of life. What’s more though, it’s made me realise I really don’t have much of a clue about certain things. Embarrassingly simple things if I’m honest. The practical and biological are my downfall and as I don’t have a partner to help fill in my gaps (and me his gaps), it makes me realise I need to get help (mainly in the form of google) to make sure that I can answer my sons questions and not tell too many lies just to stop the incessant questioning.
I have always wanted my son to understand why we do things, not just to follow rules blindly so, when my energy levels have allowed, I’ve tried to explain why rather than just say no. Much to others surprise I’ve often let him learn for himself why it’s not a good idea to do certain things if I don’t think they’re too dangerous. Like face planting off the sofa. He used to do it onto the cushions much to my mum’s concern. One day he missed the cushions – he’s never done it since. He knows now why it’s not a good idea. Lots of things can’t be experienced like that though, and now he asks why I can explain about the world and he can make his own judgements. As I write this he’s in the bath. I heard him put the tap back on and went to ask him to switch it off. He said it was so that the water wasn’t wasted and there would be more when he wanted it later. It’s true (sort of) and I love that he switched it off because he understood, rather than just because I screamed at him (I do also scream at him to do things – I’m no saint). It can be easy to get into a battle of the wills with a little one who seems to have contrary opinions on every.single.thing.ever, yet his incessant questioning reminds me that I need to explain things to him. Of course he uses this greater understanding to his own benefit too, he tells me that the trains are all shoved down the bed because of ‘gravity’ – oh, I’m sure it had nothing to do with you son. And he still thinks it’s funny to run down the street naked no matter how many times I explain to him why it isn’t, but hopefully one day the reasoning will sink in.
The most amazing thing about this why phase though is the affect it’s having on me. Slowly I’m starting to see the cloud of loneliness that is so common in early (single) motherhood, starting to lessen. I’ve been a single mum since my son was a baby so I don’t know if people with partners at home feel the same but I do know motherhood is tough however you do it. Walking down the stairs every night after putting my son to sleep as a baby was one of the loneliest things I’ve ever experienced and I experienced it every day. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I put him to bed so late, to avoid those lonely evenings. Now though, it doesn’t seem so lonely when my day is full of words and talking. Sure, I only get about two
minutes seconds into a topic before he screams cheese at the top of his voice and runs off. But in those fleeting moments I can imagine having a real person to talk to, someone who is around in the evenings and there when I wake up. To me that is a beautiful thing. So next time he’s driving me mad with his incessant whys and wherefores I’ll try to remember he’s learning to be him, and I’m getting to brainwash him influence his journey and reflect on what’s really important to me. Perhaps this why phase isn’t so bad after all.
Is there anyone else out there who is enjoying the Why Phase? What’s the best and worst thing about it for you?
I don’t usually write such positive things about toddlers in all honesty, so I’m not sure I can link you up with any other similar posts from me. However, if you were actually looking for something vaguely humorous on toddlers then you could check this out and this. If you wanted a more raw, honest account of phases and toddlers then this is your best bet.