Thursday, March 14, 2013

Because, because, because

Recently – I think it was this past weekend – I turned to my wife and said “When did she start that?” “She” in this case referred of course to our daughter, and “that” referred to … well let’s come back to that in a moment, for now allowing that it was something which I felt certain I must have overlooked in its previous, gradual development and emergence. And as always, in cases like that, I trust my attentive and perceptive better half to enlighten me as to how long I’ve been oblivious. So it was somewhat startling when my wife answered, “Today, I think, I just noticed it, too.”

The behavior in question is the little girl’s discovery of and now-frequent deployment of “Why?” This … seems a bit ahead of schedule (T-minus about four more weeks until she officially turns two years old) but then again a lot of her development seems ahead of schedule, as she furiously plays catch-up with her big brother, so that’s not news. It should be noted that the little guy, for his part, has more or less abandoned the utility of “why?” at this stage in the game. When his mother or I tell him to stop doing something or that he has to do something else, he no longer inquires after our reasonings as a delaying tactic or in the hopes of catching us out without sufficient justification; he simply launches immediately into explaining/arguing what he’s doing or wants to do contrary to our own agenda. That’s the disciplinary side of the coin; on the pure reason side, nowadays when a question like “why is the sky blue?” might conceivably come up, he’s more likely to already know the answer and hold forth on it voluminously (or “know” the answer, in the sense of making something up based loosely on his grasp of the subject matter). Point being, the little girl hasn’t exactly had “why?” modeled for her round-the-clock lately.

Yet here we are, with our daughter having arrived at one of the more exasperating (yet necessary, I know) stages of person-making … right as we are about to welcome another person-in-progress into our home. Timing! Part of me wants to protest that we really weren’t given much control over orchestrating this confluence of life events, but then another part of me might object that’s a bit of a cop out, given a few things we’ve could have paid more rigorous attention to (but didn’t) which have led us to this point. And then yet another part of me could very well point out that control is an illusion and que sera sera and once you get around to quoting Doris Day it’s probably best to put on the mental brakes a bit.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’ve expressed it lately, but there was a time when my wife and I worried a bit that the little girl might get generally steamrolled by her older brother, but that time is long gone. She is not merely playing catch-up with a fury, she is winning at it, and the two of them are quite a pair of foils for one another. I catch myself calling my daughter “Stinker” often, always affectionately but nonetheless acknowledging that she very much seems to enjoy finding out exactly how much mischief she can get away with. “Why?” is only the latest example of her exploding vocabulary, and – among her immediate family, at least – she is not the least bit shy about expressing her wants. Her requests usually end in “Peesh?” which is nice and polite, but just as usually the penultimate word in the sentence will be “Now?” (“Moolk now peesh?” “Up now peesh?”) just so that everyone knows she doesn’t expect to be kept waiting while her milk-sipping, transport-by-carrying whims are catered to. I strongly suspect she will grow up to be the type of person who is enthusiastically good-natured but all the same does not suffer fools gladly.

And call me crazy, but I still prefer the prospect of smoothing the rough edges off children who are a little too loud, too opinionated, too hasty or even too manic, as opposed to struggling to ignite a spark within those who aren’t assertive or engaged enough. Lucky me, it looks like I’m getting my wish. Before too long we’ll see if it’s 3-for-3.

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