You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the "Why?" Zone! Our 2 year old has entered the phase where every statement is followed by the dreaded toddler question, "Why?" In the Why Phase, every, I mean every comment, question, and grunt out of a parent's mouth is met with "Why?" What is the motivation? Is it the constant thirst for knowledge by a growing mind who is just so curious to learn as much as he can about the world around him? Or is it a secret devious plan agreed upon by all 2 year olds forming the 1801 Act of Annoyance to be put into practice once a child reaches the stage in life to be too responsible to be ignored and too cute to be mad at, to test the fortitude of all parents across time? I believe the latter.
Have you ever got into the "why?" battle with your toddler? It goes something like this:
Parent: Ok, time to go take a bath.
Parent: Because we take a bath every night.
Parent: Because you get dirty throughout the day and need a bath.
Parent: Because you colored with crayons, ate 3 of them, are covered in dog hair from wrestling with the dog after eating a sticky popsicle, and after our spaghetti dinner I can't tell if you are going to be permanently stained orange.
Parent: Because more spaghetti went down your shirt than in your mouth
Parent: Because you were distracted by fighting with your also stained brother, who also needs a bath.
Parent: Because you are both dirty kids and I don’t want to change your sheets every night if I send you to bed without a bath.
Parent: Because at the end of the day, I am tired and daily laundry is not high on my list.
Parent: Cause I'd rather watch the Bachelorette: the men tell all and see what Frank has to say to Ali after they broke up.
Parent: Cause he had a girlfriend at home and needed to see where that was going to go before getting into another relationship with Ali
Parent: Because Ali deserves better. This is her second chance at love on a reality TV show and she needs to find the perfect man in Tahiti and go on perfect dates because that is what real life is like and everything is easy once you are all alone with each other and there are no cameras around you, so you look for the next reality show like Jake did with Dancing with the Stars so you don’t have to face your reality show mistakes but we see how that turned out for him and Vienna on "Bachelor: the Break-up" where Chris Hanson seemed genuinely concerned for both of them but you know he wanted the gossip to stop like the rest of America because we all knew Vienna was only in the relationship for fame and he should have picked Tenley but there was also something wrong with him too and his anger issues so you question ABC's screening process for these contestants and you decide you are going to be bigger than this reality show nonsense and never watch them again. But then the Bachelorette starts and you tune in.
Parent: Cause there was nothing else on.
And it goes on and on and on.
Never get yourself in the continually circling, never-ending back and forth of trying to answer their why questions. That’s what they want from you. Don't give in to them. Instead here are 5 alternatives to end the cycle before it’s too late. Use these responses and win the battle.
Ah yes, the classic. This will work on the young and immature but it could be dangerous if you use it on an older toddler who have learned the skill of debate because they will respond to your "because" with a "because why?" When your child pulls this out of their osh-gosh back pocket the first time, it will stop you in your tracks because you have not pre-planned for this moment. But consider yourself lucky because when this happens, here is your response: "Because I said so." It will work 20-50% of the time depending on the anger in your inflection.
2. "Why not?"
The old answer a question with a question. Watch them squirm when you turn their own game against them. But be careful, they could also answer your question with a “because.” And the ones asking for a time-out will give you, “Because I said so.”
3. “Ask your mother”
This statement has been serving fathers since Cain and Abel asked Adam where babies came from. This phrase is not only reserved for questions about sex or homework anymore. Use it freely Dads. Sorry Moms.
4. “Who wants ice cream?”
The distraction. If they attempt to ask “why?” to this one, just reply, “oh well, I thought you might want ice cream but I guess not.” It works every time. Depending on their age you could also use, “Your shoes are untied,” “Hey look a puppy,” or just jiggle your keys in front of them until it’s funny or annoying. There is nothing like fighting annoying with annoying.
5. Fake sleep
When you notice the “Why?” cycle begin, find the closest wall, lean up against it, shut your eyes and fake snore. I know we are already employing this trick when its time to clean up after thanksgiving dinner or when its time to change the diapers but it can be affective versus the toddlers. And you don’t have to slow your breathing or let a little drool slip out of your mouth like you do when your wife brings out the Honey-do list during the NFL game on Sunday. Or when your husband comes to bed after watching the late game on Sunday smelling like beer and Doritos, looking for some “unnecessary roughness.”
So when you are staring down the deceivingly cute face of a 2 year old and you are dead-locked in an epic battle of wills, mono e mono, you versus them, and there is no end in sight to their cyclical questioning, you now have a way out. And you will win, because they may be cute, but you are bigger than they are.
Checking to see if my wife is really sleeping or not,
The Joyful and Tired Dad