"Joshua, clean up your toys, please." (Hey, at least I used manners.)
Joshua: "Why?" (for the hundredth time that day)
"Because I said so."
What does "because I said so" really mean?
I don't have to explain myself to you?
I don't have time to talk this through so just DO IT?
Leave me alone, I'm busy?
Your question is not as important as my problems, right now?
Or maybe it's just an absent-minded, preprogrammed phrase that parents use in response to the continuous stream of "why" questions that are thrown at them every hour of the day.
But doesn't every question deserve an answer? Especially when the "why" comes from a three-year old who is full of curiosity, eager to learn, trying to understand-- he's not questioning my authority or back-talking, stalling for time or trying to decide whether he ought to help me out or not.
After cringing at the words that had popped out of my mouth, I immediately explained, "Because it's important to put your toys away after you are done with them, so our house can be clean."
It really isn't that hard to take the extra time to explain, and it's fun to talk with Joshua about life-things.
"Mommy, why do bees make honey?"
"Mommy, why do I have to brush my teeth?"
"Mommy, why can't I have another cookie?"
"Mommy, why is it raining?"
"Why can't I colour my hand with the marker?"
The more I start to pay attention to what Joshua's saying, and really listen and try to understand the little mind behind the questions, both big and small, the more joy I find in answering him. It's so easy to get caught up in my own little world- a world that doesn't always have time for three-year old questions- but the world outside of myself is a whole lot better.