We have entered the next phase of parenting – one that I have been dreading almost as much as toilet training. “Why, mommy?” is a phrase that I hear constantly. Here are some examples—not an exhaustive list but the ones that have occurred in the past few weeks.
“Liam, you can’t ride your bike in the rain.”
“Mommy, can we go to the train store (read: Barnes and Nobles with their train table in the childrens’ books section) tonight?”
“No, honey, we can’t go to the train store every night. We have to eat some dinner and get ready for night-night.”
“Liam, we are going to Chicago tomorrow because your great-Uncle Norbert passed away and went up to heaven.”
“Why did Uncle Norbert pass by, Mommy?”
“Mommy, why is that man standing on the street holding a sign?”
“Because he is asking other people for money because he doesn’t have any.”
Some of the above are daily occurrences while others are more occasional. But any of them have the potential to go on ad nauseum, for I have learned that “Why?” is a term that can be added on to any statement or question. And there appears to be no natural end to the ‘whys’. I have often asked my husband, “When do I stop answering them? What if I don’t know why except to delve into a complicated social norm that our son doesn’t really care about? Will I squash his natural curiosity if I respond in ways that many people have told me to, which is: ‘Because I said so!’?”
And what Liam is asking me really resonates with some recent and not-so-recent experiences I have had in my life. “Why?” is a damn good question! Why?!?! Sometimes I feel like asking it until I get an answer that completes my own questioning. And sometimes I feel like shouting it, as in a rage, for what appears to be (and often is) a lack of logic to the experiences I have faced. So maybe I have been dreading this stage not only because
I cannot provide a truly satisfactory answer to most of Liam’s whys, but also because it touches within me an internal struggle of what to accept and what to let go. Why do we have to lose people we love? Why do some people have so little to meet their basic needs and others have so much? Why do I have friends who desperately want children and can’t have them? Why did my mother struggle with alcoholism? Why, why, why?
I don’t remember many people telling me that parenting was going to be difficult, not only because of the sleep deprivation and patience-endurance training I would have to undergo, but also because children often present us with a mirror to our own struggles and do so in a way that really cannot be ignored. I would like to turn away from the “whys”, just ‘pretend’ that I truly understand the randomness of life and the inherent limitations that come from being a human. But Liam invites me to ask ‘why’ and he does so very gently. He doesn’t appear to want to yell (not yet!) and he does it so naturally that I marvel at him.
I’m so happy to be Liam’s mother. But why were we paired with each other? This might be one “why” that I’m willing to simply ask and not really care what the answer is… because I have such gratitude for his presence in my life that the ‘answer’ doesn’t really matter. The experience of loving him and being a companion in his life journey is enough.
Carrie Nantais, M.Div., MA, currently lives in Detroit, MI with her husband, David, and two sons, Liam (age 6) and Theo (age 3). She is completing her PhD in Clinical Psychology in May, 2017. Her areas of interest include: integration of spirituality and psychology, forgiveness, trauma and resiliency and women’s health issues. When she takes care of herself, she enjoys yoga, being creative, singing loudly in the car and laughing with her family.