Why? Because I Said So

I grew up a very curious soul. And I’ve always ac tually looked forward to having curious kids. I couldn’t wait
for them to start talking an d ask ing questions so I could show them the world an d how it works.

I wasn’t going to be a parent who used “just because”. I was going to educate and elucidate. But it turns out that toddler questions aren’t the great learning exercise I expected. And while they do indeed have an insatiable curiosity, it’s often applied to mundane things.

“Daddy why does the moon change shape?” is interesting. “Daddy, why are cornflakes orange?” is not as interesting not to mention a lot harder to answer. In fact it’s all too frequently a great challenge answering questions from those incapable of wiping their own bottoms.

I’ve discovered there are roughly three ways to answer a toddler question. Take the following query for example:
“Why is my reflection upside down in a spoon Daddy?” You really have three options.

a) Because concave surfaces reflect inversely
b) Because the spoon is curved.
c) Magic!

Now, I know most of you are thinking option b) but that is a trap. Because their immediate follow-up question will be “why?” and you will probably have to resort to a) or c) anyway.

Nothing is straight forward and “Why?” is currently the bane of my existence. Those three little letters often leave me exasperated. Not because they’re being asked but because they’re being asked beyond the point of being able to provide an answer.

You can explain how things fly (lift force) and why they fall (gravity) but how do you respond when they ask WHY does gravity sucks things down? Or WHY solids can’t pass through solids?

You get to a point where they’re asking the why about principles/theories/laws that we simply accept. It’s also – scientifically speaking – the point at which your mind just explodes.

One of these days they’re going to ask “why are you hitting your head against the wall Daddy?” Just because honey. Just because.

REAL fear

I’ve never been so scared in my life.

And let me put that in perspective. I’ve been shot at, had a knife held at my throat by someone who wanted me dead and been in riots. I’ve jumped out of planes, off towers and into misadventure frequently. I’ve regularly chased my curiosity passed the point most would.

But never have I ever felt as sick to the stomach as the moment I couldn’t find one of my children.

We were on a cruise liner on holidays. Twin A broke right, Twin B broke left. I chased the quicker one but the other had rounded a corner by the time I swooped the first up. I wasn’t concerned at this point: just irritated by their behaviour of the previous hour and this seemingly co-ordinated escape plan.

I set off down the corridor but no Gypsy. Rounding corner number 3 still no sign so I picked up the pace. Around the fourth corner and about to complete a rectangular journey I stopped cold. There in the middle of the corridor was the stuffed turtle she carries everywhere.

Everywhere. The one she wouldn’t even allow to go in her luggage. I feel a chill down my spine.

I scoop it up but my fast walk has become a run now. I complete the circuit to no avail and check into the lounge in the middle where the rest of the family is but she’s not there. I dump Rhapsody with grandma while I take off at a sprint: me one way, grand-dad the other. We meet without toddler.

I’m very calm in a crisis but this time I’m aware my heart-rate is higher than normal. The wife has checked in with a staff member who shows little concern with “It’s a ship – it’s not as if she can go far”.

I widen the search doing the entire level at a sprint. By the 15-minute mark I’m checking toilets as I pass them trying not to think about the why of my actions. One level of 14 searched. Corridors and toilets anyway.

By 25 minutes I’m almost frantic. In the face of gunfire calm, but here? I’m aware I’m starting to lose it. It’s at this point that I peer over the mezzanine and, luckily, spot my wandering daughter – perhaps determined to live up to her name – walking purposefully through the crowds two floors below.

I fly down two flights of stairs quicker then Usain Bolt and sweep her up in my arms. Surprisingly I have no anger in my system. Just relief and, oddly, I’m on the verge of tears.

Unlike her daddy, she was relatively calm and tells me she couldn’t find me so she was heading back to our cabin. She was almost there too (later I would marvel this was quite a feat for a three-year-old).

Later I would also wonder at how quickly my mind went to a bad place where I assumed the worst.

When did I go from fearless liver of life to vulnerable?

The day I became a parent.