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The age of the defiant “why”

Submitted by on Thursday, 28 October 2010 No Comment

Used to be, the guys’ “whys” were mainly sweet, innocent and curious.

“Why isn’t the moon cut?” Big Guy would ask on the nights that it was full. When you think about it,the moon is “cut” more than it’s full, so from a 3-year-old’s perspective the question makes sense.

There was the occasional grouse – “Why do I have to brush me teeth” or “Why do I have to go to bed” – but they were rare enough to not be terribly annoying.

These days, though, the grouse monster has taken the house hostage. He rampages and rants through what start out as perfectly polite conversations – usually when the guys are being asked to do something  that they don’t want to do at the moment.

To make it worse, I was the one who accidentally ushered him in when I took pains in the early years to explain why the guys had to do something they didn’t want to do at the moment.

“Why do I have to brush my teeth?”

“To clean the things out of your mouth that will make your teeth rot.”

“Why does it matter if my teeth rot?”

“It matters because it can make you sick. Plus you’ll have to go to the dentist and get them fixed.”

“But didn’t you say I’ll get big-people teeth some day? Why do I have to get baby teeth fixed?”

“Just go brush your teeth. Right now.”

They came to expect those lengthy expectations and learned to use them as a way of stalling. They never got out of doing what they didn’t want to do, but it seemed that for them the battle was half the battle. Ah-HA! “Right now” doesn’t really mean “right now” when I’m able to drag it out.

In an attempt to keep the grouse monster in his cage, I started tacking an explanation onto the requests. That didn’t work either.

“Put on your shoes, please. It’s time to go to basketball.”


“Because you can’t go to basketball barefooted …” I started out, but then I realized the grouse monster was attacking again.

That’s when I implemented a new rule. Asking “why” is fine – encouraged even. But don’t ask it unless you’re asking for information. You know why you have to put on your shoes. You know you have to brush your teeth. Don’t try to stall. It won’t work, but it does start frustrating me.

They both nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I don’t like it when you get frustrated and bark,” Big Guy said.

I tried again the next day, hoping they would remember the rule and the grouse monster would remain under lockdown.

“Put on your shoes. It’s time to go to karate.”

“How come?”

Lovely. Stalling and bad English. It appears that an even uglier sibling has usurped the grouse monster.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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