Yesterday, I took Jack (seen here, catching up on his back issues) to the pediatrician for his 3-year check-up. All went smoothly, Jack was cooperative with everything, even though it was his first time taking eye chart and hearing tests, being weighed on the real scale, and using a real blood-pressure cuff.
Almost in passing, I mentioned to Dr. Brown that Jack was lately taken up the time-honored tradition of the "Why?"-ing game. It usually goes something like this:
Me: Okay, Jack, let's go to Grandma and Grandpa's house.
Me: Because we're having dinner over there.
Me: Because we love them and we like spending time with them.
Me: (pause) Because they're part of our family and we love our family.
Me: Um, I don't know Jack.
Jack: I don't know either.
"I don't know" is one of only two or three possible endings for the "Why?"-ing game. The traditional end-game is "Because I said so," but that smacks of fascism to me, so I prefer the more self-deprecating, we're-all-in-this-confused-world-together sentiment of "I don't know." Of course, another alternative is to stop responding, but then, Jack tends to assume that he's not talking loudly enough, and, if I stay silent for too long, he will end up lying on my chest, screaming in my face, "WHY, DADDY, WHY?!!" It's not pretty.
Until I talked to Dr. Brown, I kinda liked the "Why?"-ing game, despite how annoying it is. After all, I assumed, Jack's trying to really understand the world around him, and the least I can do is help, right?
Actually, Dr. Brown explained, most kids figure out at some point that as long as they keep asking "Why?", their parents will keep talking to them, engaging with them—even if it's in increasingly exasperated tones—and they like the attention. Truth is, they're probably not listening very closely to what you're saying or truly thinking about, say, why we love our family, or why the sky is blue, or why people like to play tennis (another recent query). They just like it when you talk to them.
And, truth be told, that's pretty nice too. I like talking to Jack and, while I can tell that he's not really parsing all of my explanations, I think he does think about them sometimes, and even more as he gets older. In a weird way, it's also nice to think about some of the philosophical questions that come up during the "Why?"-ing game: Why do people like to play tennis?
Suffice it to say, it doesn't look like we're got going to stop playing any time soon anyway.