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Isn't It A Bit Early For "Why"?

A couple days ago I was driving down the
highway when Cora asked for her pacifier. Now, we’ve been
working on weaning her – graaaaaaaadually – from her
pacifier, so I try to stall and put her off and avoid the thing in
the car unless it’s absolutely urgent. So she’d ask for
“Pacifier, peeese!” and I’d reply, “Ok,
honey, hang on, I’ll have to look for it.”

Each request became a bit more urgent, until about the fourth time
Cora said, “Mommy! Pacifier! PEEEEEEEEEEESE!”
“Well, honey, Mommy can’t find it,” I replied,
which was technically true – I’d buried it in the
diaper bag so I wouldn’t be a liar.

There was silence for a few moments, and then from the back of my
seat a question floated up:

“Why not?”

Yes, Cora’s learned how to ask “Why”.

Call my crazy, but I absolutely
don’t remember Maddie grasping the “why” concept
when she was a year and three quarters; I thought it was somewhere
around two and a half. So the best I can figure out is that
she’s learned the idea from her big sister (remind me to
thank her) and is applying it wholeheartedly to her life.

Now, you may think that Cora’s simply mimicking Maddie and
can’t possibly understand the philosophical ramifications of
the “why” question, but I guarantee you that she does.
And if you think a two-year-old tantrum is awful, it’s
nothing compared to a not-quite-two-year-old copying a
not-quite-four-year-old’s infinitely more sophisticated
tantrum, and adding the “why” into the mix.

“Mommy, Cora go outside?” “No, sweet pea.”
“Why?” “Because it’s too dark and
wet.” (This said at 8:30 p.m. in the middle of a rain shower)
“No it’s not!” Wait ten seconds. “Mommy,
Cora go outside?” “No, sweet pea.”
“Why?” “Because it’s too dark and
wet.” “No it’s not!”

For a good fifty repetitions.

In fact, the “why” loop is so common in our house,
Maddie has noticed a double standard. Maddie’s still hugely
into the “why” questions herself – at the more
age-appropriate almost-four-years-old – but sees that I
won’t answer the same question infinitely. I’ll answer
a “why” question truthfully and in detail and with
patience, but if she asks again almost immediately and I think
it’s because she didn’t really listen the first time,
I’ll say, “Ok, I’ll tell you but listen closely
because I won’t tell you why again.” One day Maddie
said, “If you’ll only answer my questions once or
twice, why did you tell me I have to be patient and answer
Cora’s questions every time she asks me the same thing over
and over?” I explained about Cora’s age difference
making it harder for her to learn things as fast as Maddie does,
and got the expected question – “Why?”

Occasionally with Cora I’ll find an answer that’s both
truthful and different enough to get the broken record out of its
groove, and I’ll derail the Why Train. At least momentarily.

“Mommy, Cora go outside?” “No, sweet pea.”
“Why?” “Because it’s almost Cora’s


“Oh. Ok.”


Wail. “No, it’s not!”


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