Published on December 6th, 2014 | by Richard Black0
Answering the Question “Why?” and the Reason for My Next Stroke
If you’re raising a small child and you’re even a bit like me (and let’s be honest most of you probably are even if you chose not to admit it) you’ve probably become a bit disenchanted by the question “why?” or really any series of questions that spout from your child or, God forbid, children as if they were retarded anchormen (or women) resigned to the graveyard shift at your 24 hour news spewer of choice.
Don’t get me wrong I love answering questions. It makes me feel smart. Even if I have no idea what I’m talking about I find it flattering that someone, anyone really, would think that I look like I might have an acceptable answer to…well anything. Unfortunately, when placed in the hands or more precisely the mouths of a four year old the ability question becomes a tool of such profound irritation that it would make St. Francis of Assisi kick babies*.
I love my daughter and want to encourage her desire to learn as much as possible . That said I can only answer so many Dantesque levels of questions before the a vein in my forehead starts to throb like a spastic leech. I call him Mr. Throbby.
Dante missed a level of hell when he wrote the Inferno. I’m not sure what to call it but it exists every day in my car when I drive my daughter to school.
“Daddy why are we going this way?” my daughter will ask, casting out her line and putting the hook in the metaphorical shallow waters of my mind and like some stupid ass fish I take the bait every time.
“Because this is the way we go to school.”
“Because we live in a three dimensional space, four if you include time, and this is the quickest way to get you to school.”
NOTE: Sarcasm is lost upon most four year olds.
“No Daddy why why do I have to go to school?” Darcy asks in a disinterested tone as she stares out the window.
“Well you need to learn.”
“I know Daddy but why?” she asks in the same exasperated tone I’ve been laboring to keep out of my voice.
“Because if you don’t learn anything then you wont go to college or graduate school and no one will hire you and you’ll have to work as a stripper to pay your rent.”
“What’s a stripper?”
“A woman who takes advantage of lonely, horny men.”
At this point I imagine that most of you get the gist of how the rest of the conversation plays out. Darcy tells her teachers at school that daddy told her to be a stripper and I’m visited by child services for the second time in less than six months. I’m kidding of course. Child services has only dropped by my home once this year. What really occurs is that I continue answering questions with inane bits of opinion, snark and the occasional fact until I drop Darcy off at school or “accidentally” ram our car into a tree.
Fortunately for my well being, our car and, I suppose, my daughter I discovered a way to placate her thirst for knowledge. I realize that sounds awful but I believe it to be preferable to telling Darcy that she needs to stop asking so many fucking questions or slamming our vehicle into a stationary object. The car is only six months old after all.
Today, as we hurtled to school at 40 miles per hour on the highway, the inquisition began again.
“Daddy why is it cloudy outside?”
“I’m glad you asked sweetie,” I responded and proceeded to give Darcy an answer in exhausting and remarkably inaccurate detail.
“Due to the rotation of the earth and our geographic location we live in an area that, in weather parlance, is known as the zone of cyclones where high and low pressure cells travel from west to east. Low pressure cells are generally associated with what we commonly refer to as “bad” or inclimate weather like rain or snow. These cells are accompanied by fronts or divisions between hot and cold air masses that precipitate (hahaha) cloud cover.
“To answer your specific question,” I plowed on before my daughter had the chance to ask another question, “the formation of clouds is generally caused by the process of evaporation by which moisture at ground level is heated by the sun, rises in the form of vapor and coalesces into a cloud once it cools. Now precipitation occurs when…”
I managed to drone on for a good five minutes and Darcy didn’t get in a single word throughout the entire trip. Mr. Throbby never made an appearance either which was nice.
After I dropped Darcy off to school without suffering from a trans ischemic attack for the first time in three months I remembered that my father used to deluge me with information when I was a young tot. I’m not certain if he intended to provide a me with thorough response for any question I may have, in retrospect, regrettably posed or deprive me of my will to live. Either way it had the effect of keeping me quiet.
“Where are we going?” I remember asking the old man one day after he picked me up from daycare.
“I thought we’d take the long way home today.”
“Why?” I asked.
“We’ve got a little time on our hands and sometimes its fun to take a drive.”
“It is?” I asked as we careened down a one lane county road at approximately 3,000 miles an hour.
“It is,” my father affirmed as he dodged around a farmer’s combine, narrowly avoided a culvert, a family of possums and another combine, “and county roads are the best way to take a drive. Now before you ask a county is a unit defined by the state that contains the county seat and a courthouse where cases of both a criminal and a civil nature are decided. In Indiana, the state where we live, counties are typically an area that covers a sixteen miles by sixteen miles square. Of course this isn’t applicable when state boundaries supersede those of the county or a river, lake or other geological feature makes the aforementioned 16 by 16 square mile unit impossible. In that case…”
It was in this way that I learned about the duller aspects of just about everything anyone didn’t want to know about highways, the geological history of central Indiana, its judicial system, common law marriage, the origins of fish fries, square dancing, estate planning, the difference between Napoleonic Code verses Common Law and quite a few other things that were the equivalent of a mental ruffie.
At the age of six I had stopped asking my father open ended questions or really questions of any sort. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I had the emotional and mental fortitude to start asking my father questions again.
Some thirty years later and now that I have a child I’m grateful for the knowledge my father was willing to impart if only for the fact that it allows me to drone on incessantly about any topic a four year old would care to ask. As dull as it was to listen to my father ramble on about how highways came into being or corn was cultivated in Mayan culture I still held him in awe.
At that age there wasn’t a single question I could ask him that he couldn’t readily answer and, if I’m honest, the same still holds true to this day.
I like to think that Darcy will hold me in the same regard…at least for a little while. In the meantime I’ve got to get to work on my lecture for Darcy’s drive to school on Monday. She’s been fascinated with dogs recently, what makes a dog a dog instead of a cat or a papaya and I think a lengthy discussion on the properties of heredity as described by Mendel wouldn’t be out of order. If she doesn’t fall asleep in the first five minutes I’ll be floored and if she remains awake I’ve got a good half hour on Darwin’s study of barnacles that I can pretty much repeat in mind numbing detail.
Darcy might take it in, she might not but either way I’ll consider it a win if only for the fact that I won’t go home with a pounding migraine for the second time in three months or really think about driving into a ditch to end a conversation.
*This phrase was blatantly stolen from Douglas Adams