Why? Why? Why? There’s a time in a child’s life when the search for answers begins with the big question, “Why?” Just this week, my granddaughter, Gaby, who is turning three this month, asked, “Why?” Her mother, my daughter Kathy, was intrigued, and asked her, “Why what?” “Why is London Bridge falling down?”
Gaby’s “why” story made me smile, as it made me recall the first time I, as a mother, faced the challenge of a child’s unending “whys.”
I remember when my eldest daughter, Ching Ching, started asking “why?” She wasn’t quite three years old, and she had just come from swimming lessons at the Metropolitan Club. I told her that she needed to change into dry clothes, and she asked, “Why?” At first I thought that she just didn’t want to do it, and maybe I was being given the infamous “terrible two” treatment.
Not wanting to just order her to change into dry clothes, or to ask her Yaya to change her clothes, with or without her consent, I knelt down so we could be face-to-face as I attempted to give an explanation – that she might get sick if she kept her wet bathing suit on. But that answer led to another “why?” And, followed by another “why?” and another, and another, until I got stumped with the question, and could no longer give her any answers.
It was a thought-provoking stage in her young life, and I genuinely wanted to be able to provide answers, or at the very least, encourage her curiosity to flourish. Since I did not want to discourage her from asking questions, including the interminable “whys?” I searched in my head for reasons why things happen –so I could answer my two-year-old - whether from experience or personal knowledge, or at times, just from what seem like logic.
Her questions also provided an opportunity to encourage her to look into books for answers. (Now, they can Google). But somehow, at her tender age, my daughter must have thought of me as the eternal font from whence all answers flowed, and the moment when she realized that I was an ordinary mortal, whose brains did not have the capacity for all human knowledge, came one day. When the long string of “Why’s” ended with an unanswered “why,” I would say, “Let’s look that up. Maybe the encyclopedia can give us the answer.” Maybe, I had made that offer to check the books a little too frequently, and one day, she looked at me, with a disappointed look in her face, and asked, “why” – again, that big question, “why do we have to look that up in books? Why, (Hmmm, that “why” has a different ring to it), don’t you know anything?”
Humbly and truthfully, I confessed, “Sorry, but I don’t know everything.” But instead of reproaching me, she just asked,