To me, it’s the most important question word. And it’s funny that I’m writing about my son’s use of it. Because he’s not yet 3 years old and I don’t think I considered it to be the most important until well into adulthood. Yet, every day, often dozens of times a day, no matter the circumstance, Liam asks whatever adult he is with, “Why?”
Sometimes it makes sense: “We have to wear a jacket”. “Why?” “Because it’s cold today.” Other times it doesn’t: “Liam, this is Ms. Ursula.” “Why?” Sometimes it’s clearly an attempt to derail a series of events he doesn’t want to happen: “We have to turn off the TV and get ready.” “Why?” The funniest example happens at least once a week and goes something like this:
Liam: Can I have an apple, please?
[Gets up to go get it.]
Liam: Where you going?
Daddy: To get your apple.
That word comes out of a holster these days and has for about ten months now.
Yet it keeps life interesting. Even when it gets on my nerves, and it has. I remember vowing when he started with this most philosophical of question words that I wouldn’t cop-out. I’d give as good an answer as I could. And definitely not fall back on that mother of all parenting phrases, “Because I said so”. That lasted all of about three days. I say things like, “Because I said so,” “Because God made it that way” and “Just put your coat on” essentially every day.
(If I am being completely forthright, I confess that I often get annoyed at his “Why?” questions because I don’t know the answer. I didn’t expect my son at such a young age to stump me. But he has. I’ve gotten more comfortable saying, “I don’t know” to him.)
I would be writing to say I’m thankful that my son asks the question because it means he’s learning and growing. And developing an inquisitive nature. And that, of course, is true. Even at his age, not merely accepting basic facts, but trying to understand them, is crucial. Adults forget this and it is a big reason why we stop growing. And could be why some organizations, like churches, either grow stagnant or die.
But if you know my son’s history, you won’t be surprised at all that for my wife and me, it goes a little beyond that. When we discovered he had a brain mass in July 2020, it could have meant anything as far as his health and development. We discovered it, after all, because we were trying to find out why he wasn’t walking at 18 months.
That delay continued. And caused us all sorts of angst and frustration. He was well over two years old before he could really walk more than a couple of steps without help. So it was natural to wonder if he’d have cognitive delays as well.
Thankfully he hasn’t. He has demonstrated normal capacity to work through cause-and-effect, including by asking “Why?” And I would be sinfully remiss if I didn’t praise God for it. God is worthy of my worship when Liam has a delay and when he doesn’t. God is good if this mass is a tumor (which they were certain it was) or not (which they are confident now it probably isn’t). I must recognize that. But I also cannot deny that the days when I am fatigued from all of his “Why?” questions, this helps me not to take them for granted. I still do, no doubt, but far less than I think I would have.
Just this week, Liam was putting on his jacket. I said, “It’s cold outside today, buddy.” And instead of asking why, he asked, “Cause God made it that way?” I couldn’t help but smile. He’s learning! He’s asked numerous times why it’s cold the last few weeks. And, trying to point him to Truth, that has been my answer. It would be cool one day if he learns science that goes deeper, yet still ends with God. Because Daddy doesn’t know that stuff. But in the meantime, I’m thrilled for the moments his “Why?” questions create.
And I’m deeply thankful for them.