I’ve spent some time learning a few foreign languages. The first thing a good foreign language instructor will tell you is that while there are many acceptable questions one can ask of a language, one question is completely unacceptable.
How are the verbs conjugated? What cases do the nouns assume? These are fine, but if you want to converse in a language there is one question you must never ask. Never even think about it. Never let it begin to creep into your mind. Never. That is, the question… Why?
That’s the question for a philologist, not the speaker of a foreign language. The development of a language over time is an interesting thing to study, but for someone wanting to converse in it, the language must be accepted as it is without asking why it is that way.
What’s That Got To Do With Anything?
You might be wondering for what reason I brought this up. Stick with me here, it will be clear to you momentarily.
As a parent, there is one question that often lingers in my mind. One question that drifts from the subconscious to conscious when facing a two year old throwing sand in the house or splashing in the toilet. One question when listening to a deafening cacophony of sounds emanating from the dinner table or when seeing a five year old fall out of his chair. One question when watching a seven year old throw his body on the floor in a convulsive temper tantrum or when contemplating the state of one’s life. It’s that same question that should never be asked of a language. Never even be considered. Never…
The why is for psychologists in their cozy offices and academics in their ivory towers. But for the tasks a parent faces, the question Why? does not help. So like the linguist, we must stop asking why and just accept things as they are.
Unfortunately, for me, the paths in my brain are too worn deep and I can’t help but wondering, Why? In fact, any number of why questions come to my mind throughout the day.
Questions Parents Should Not Ask, But Do Anyways
Why is my two year old painting on the new carpet? Why is my five year old knocking over his milk? Why is my one year old trying out his vocal chords now? Why is there dirt on the couch? Why does everything I put away always seem to find its way back to the floor? Why does our tree resemble the inside of the Arc de Triumphe? Why is the cat purple? Why is there a worm farm in the sink? Why is the bathroom floor wet, and why is the wetness not from water? Why is the kitchen table upside down? Why is there a tree branch on my bed? Why is there a iguana roaming around the living room? Why is the front door missing?
I’m sure you have more than a few of your own.
The Only Acceptable Answer
I recently found the only suitable answer I know. It seems to answer without answering, but still satisfy. The answer? “It’s their job.”
This answer cures the parent of asking the Why? question. We all have some job and the child is no different than the parent in this respect. They just have a different job description… one parents are not allowed to read, but can guess at its contents.
So, don’t ask why, but if you can’t help but wonder, try this answer out. You’ll soon discover you have a satisfying non-answer to the questions you should never ask. Then you can begin to ask the Why? questions of yourself…