How many times have we as parents been in a situation where we have been deep in the middle of doing something and all of a sudden our small person (my Bear) is behind us asking, WHY?:
Bear: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
Daddy: “Painting the wall buddy”
What do I say? Clearly I am painting the wall. I’ve a paint brush in my hand and everything has been covered with old bed sheets. I now panic because a three year old is near an open tin of paint. It makes me feel like a dizzy tightrope walker, one false move and its all over.
Daddy: “Because it needs a paint”
Then you get hit again:
Bear: “Why Daddy?”
I’ve been guilty, and probably still am, of using the standard technique.
Daddy: “Because it needs a paint”
Guess what comes next:
Daddy: “Because it needs a new coat of paint. *insert deflection task* Why don’t you go and play bud?”
Bear exits past the paint to go and play.
On reflection, what a total wasted opportunity. I have deflected his questions so that I can continue the job at hand rather than seeing the opportunity to expand Bears understanding.
How frustrating must this have been for him? He came to me inquisitive of what I’m doing and all I’ve done is give him an answer that satisfies me, rather than him.
Bear was eager to expand his understanding, I’ve just enabled a route for this quest for understanding to be blocked.
Perhaps I should have said:
“Because the walls look a bit tired and mummy and daddy want to brighten it up, a bit like a colourful picture.”
This could feed another ‘why,’ and fuel a thirst for more knowledge.
I have a theory that I’m starting to play with in my quest to grow as a dad, husband and person. By not having our questions answered, we stop asking and wanting to know answers.
This probably isn’t revolutionary to many, as a first time dad who didn’t grow up with siblings asking me why, I didn’t know how to approach the inevitable ‘why’ at first. Looking at it now, the fact Bear has started asking me why, and keep asking me why, has made me start to understand how powerful the word is. Not just for a toddler’s learning but also how powerful the implementation of the word is when parenting.
I don’t mean we now have two people going round and asking why at everyday tasks and winding my wife up. However by using the word why I’m starting to understand more as a first time dad.
Why is the Bear not doing what I ask? Probably the way in which I’m asking, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon, it’s been a busy day, me repeating ‘the toys need tidying’ over and over isn’t engaging him. So, I need to implement a new strategy, make it a game.
Why are we at logger heads about eating rice? Maybe I need to take a step back and relax about the rice, he’s eating his veg. Get a grip.
Here’s where I’m now at with this:
Why can’t I use ‘why’ to understand me as a dad and a person?
Why should I worry if the Bear is round an open tin of paint? What’s the worse that can happen? I’ve put dust sheets down. The end result here is the Bear gets some paint on him.
Why do I worry when the Bear walks on the pavement with out holding my hand? I shouldn’t, I trust him, he stops when I say stop. I have the issue not the Bear.
Why should I work all the hours? I don’t want to. I want to be there as a dad and a husband so it’s within my power to change as long as I keep my family safe.
This is the essence as to what asking ‘why’ has opened up for me. If I want to be a better dad, why shouldn’t I? It’s with in my power to the change the areas where I feel they are needed, why shouldn’t I?
This is the magic that parenthood has given me. Not only a beautiful Bear but the confidence to ask why to things I never would, because in truth I want to provide the answer to the questions the Bear will ask me.
This freedom has only opened up because I have set ground rules for myself.
I love my family and their security comes before anything.
When I’m prepared to investigate I will also be prepared for any answer (for the most part).
I want to grow and have given myself permission to grow as a dad, husband, and person.
These rules and me asking why are driving me to grow.
The next time you feel challenged or in a challenging frame of mind, both as a dad and as a person ask why. This can be externally or internally and this can be a challenge. However, it will give you the one thing we all want in one shape or another. Answers.
Here is my why challenge, the next time your little one asks ‘why’, why not expand on what you are doing. Who knows where it will lead. It made me explain why I was completing boring paperwork, the bear focused till budget, so we went for ice cream!