I was babysitting a three-year-old on Friday night. A very smart three-year old. He says phrases that kids his age shouldn’t know. I’m pretty sure that while we were talking about the toppings on our pizza he said something like, “I don’t care for peppers.” Do three-year-olds talk like that?
Anyway, the kid’s name is Zach, and he asks a lot of questions. Most of them are the one-word question, “Why?” He doesn’t say it to be defiant; he’s honestly curious.
The first few times he asked me, I was honestly taken aback. I’m not used to people asking me the reason behind every statement I make. Any of you who are moms are probably like, “Yeah, kids say that all the time. It’s like a reflex. It’s not meant to throw you into existential conundrums.”
But alas, I don’t have children, and therefore when someone asks me “Why?” I try to answer the question. Even if the question-asker is three-years-old.
“Tomatoes are red,” I’d say.
“Why?” Zach asks.
I’d pause, thinking hard. “I don’t know.” Should I know? Am I stupid?
The questions get harder.
I might say, “You should love your brother.”
For some of you, the “you should” is good enough, but it isn’t for me. I’ve always had a problem with parents or babysitters who tell kids “no” just because it’s the easy answer–not because the activity is harmful. So I try to have a reason behind the things I tell kids to do.
To be honest, I have an answer for why Zach should love his brother. But it requires some thinking, and it can’t be looked up on Wikipedia like the tomato question.
I then get thinking about other things, as if I will be asked “Why?” for everything. Why do I do the things I do in life? Why do I have certain standards for other people?
Why do I spend time with one friend more than another?
Why don’t I save more money?
Why don’t I save less money?
Listen to the statements you make. Look at the way you spend your time, money, energy. And pretend there’s a three-year-old next to you asking, “Why?”
Take some time to answer the kid. You may surprise yourself with how often you’re speechless. And if you are, take some time to figure out the answer:-)