Thursday, July 02, 2009

Six Degrees of Why

A couple of the spud's friends have been asking 'why' a lot recently and for a while, whenever he saw them he would mimic it a bit. This week however it's started in earnest and he's asking 'why' about nearly everything. I've been looking forward to this stage, I have to confess. I've always fancied the idea of solemnly answering all the 'whys' until my son is a veritable encyclopaedia of knowledge and never ONCE answering with 'Because I Said So' however the truth is that since I discovered that 'I don't know' puts an end to the questions I've suddenly become quite a dense person.

I have also discovered that if you ask 'why' for long enough, eventually you arrive back at either God or particle physics. I'm trying out a new game whereby I am seeing how many 'whys' it takes to get into metaphysics and beyond. Here's a recent example:

'Say goodbye to your friend'
'Because he's going home'
'Because it's bedtime'
'Because it's getting late'
'Because er, because er, because there's this thing called time and... oh, I don't know sweetie, just say goodbye'

You see? Four 'Whys' until we needed Stephen Hawking to step in and take over. It's like playing six degrees of separation. You can probably add in a few more steps such as 'because he's tired' but try that and see how far you get before you're talking about the birds and the bees and is there life after death?

There aren't actually that many ways out of the Why Conundrum because I don't think he really wants to know 'why', I think he's just thrilled at having a word that gets our full attention.

'Don't pull Sammy's tail'
'Because it hurts Sammy'
'Would you like it if I pulled your arm?'

Nope. Often the conversation will go in a complete circle:

'Come and help Mummy tidy up''
'Because you made a big mess'
'Because you were playing'
'Because you were having fun'
'Because you were playing'
'Because you were... oh bollocks'

I think the key here is to try to get as much enjoyment out of this as possible and so I will be that Mum mangling gravity to her bemused toddler while his toy car rolls under the chair. It is in fact my goal, to take him from 'why' to 'cogito ergo sum' in as few steps as possible; I'll let you know how quickly his eyes glaze over.


Nicola said...

Oh this is so funny. I have these moments multiple times a day by not just one, but two, boys and I have to remind myself when I am tired to try to follow the conversation through...tho most of the time it does seem to be a ploy to either delay the inevitable cessation of activity they have been enjoying so much or just to keep my attention and keep talking.

The most amusing element to it all is that the time that I have just made something up to bring the conversation to an end this piece of information comes back to bite me in the arse one, two or six months later with the infamous words, 'but you said.....' They are so smart, it's frightening.

Anonymous said...

You have just perfectly summarized an afternoon at my house! Maren has become the QUEEN of 'Why?' I have had to lock up all the dull spoons for fear that I will use one to gouge out my eyeballs.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, I actually remember having these conversations with my own mother. Poor thing. I know her pain now.

Catharine Withenay said...

At my son's dedication service, my uncle took him away for a while and came back proudly declaring that he had taught him (6m old baby) the laws of thermodynamics.

Hasn't stopped the 'why' questions, though.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Jonathan has just started all the "why" stuff too lately. Last week I told him not to touch the stove and heard it for the first time: "Why?"

And I told him it was hot, but I know that soon it will come down to: "Because I said so!"

Oh dear.

Sue said...


Have fun, Spark. ;)

The word verification says "Ablegit"...

Almost Mrs Average said...

Haha - I remember the Why stage very clearly. After a while I also tried turning the tables and asking my youngest the same thing. To hear a 3 year old answer "Because I said so" was an interesting point in my life.

A few years ago I went to a seminar about innovation and corporate problem solving. Interestingly it was based on the power of asking why and the theory was that you only needed to go through about 4 steps to get the answer you needed. Maybe I'll try it on my husband :-D

Sparx said...

Nicola; that's a good piece of advice, I will do my best not to lie to him in an answer!!!

Fishsticks - very funny! I do feel the same sometimes...

Jennie - I don't remember but my Mum has informed me I once asked her 'why is the sun'; it's coming to us all I fear...

Catherine - I think that would only create MORE why's to be honest!!

Lisa - you know, you do what you have to. I will say those words if I feel the need, I know I will!

Sue - Ablegit! He surely is...

Almost Mrs. Average - no really, did your three year old say 'because I said so?'. Do you have it on tape? Very funny. I like the '4 whys to your answer' theory though. I'll have to keep track of where that goes.

cactus petunia said...

That's just too funny.


Because I said so!

Michelle said...

Sparx, a funny post again! Love it, love it!