Society

Those Q and A sessions

Mother and child

Mother and child  

“Why is your name Divya, amma?”

“But why did they give you that name?”

“Who’s that uncle on the scooter?”

“What’s his name, amma?"

“What’s written on his shirt?”

“Is it Diwali today?"

“Why, amma?”

“Is it my birthday today?”

“But why, amma?”

“Where do cats sleep at night, amma?”

“Does the umachi live in the temple?”

“Why, amma?”

This is a rough transcript of the ‘conversation’ between my three-year-old and me during a less than 10-minute-long drive through our neighbourhood a couple of days ago. That’s roughly 1.2 questions a minute. And that’s actually below the daily average.

I know kids ask a lot of questions. I always found it kind of adorable in the old pre-parenting days (PPL). I still do. It’s just that after the fifth round of “Why is X’s name X, amma?” (the daughter is on a ‘name’ kick right now) in the course of one morning, the cuteness factor starts dipping ever so slightly. There are only so many ways you can say, “Just because.” I was never going to be one of those moms. I swore I’d always look up the question and have a sensible answer for my child. But really, sometimes, there is no other answer. Even Google can’t help (much) with, “But why is a cat called a cat, amma?” since etymology is not a science I’m prepared to delve deeply into with my toddler. Ditto with the daily discussion of, “Is it my birthday today, amma?”, “But why, amma?” There are only so many times you can explain that birthdays, and therefore birthday parties, come just once a year before you start resorting to “It just isn’t, baby.”

I do try with the other questions, though. For instance, I faithfully Googled, “What is Dora’s last name?” (Marquez, in case you were wondering), and “How old is Peppa Pig?” (four, and, before you ask, George Pig is two). We go into deep, philosophical discussions over festivals (how Pillaiyar umachi eats kozhukattais on his birthday, and how old he must be – five years old, according to my daughter). We have loud conversations in public about other people’s sartorial choices (“Why is that uncle wearing shorts, amma?”), their behaviour (“Is that girl crying, amma?” “But why, amma?”) and their possessions (“Can I have her Dora bag, amma? Pleeeaaase, amma!”) Of course, all eyes are on me as I provide explanations. Most people smile. Most.

The easiest questions, of course, are the factual ones that Google can answer (“What’s a husky, amma?” while watching some random snow-laden movie) or that some family expert (engineer or scientist) can deal with. Caution: you might want to take said family expert’s answer and simplify to toddler levels. A recent “where’s the car’s brake?” question to auto engineer daddy resulted in a lecture on the differences between disc and drum braking systems that I modified to “they’re next to the wheels, sweetie.”

Of all the questions, the ‘whys’ are the toughest. And when wielded by a wily toddler, they can turn into potent weapons. For example:

Parent: Finish your veggies!

Toddler: Why?

P: They’re good for you.

T: Why?

P: They’ll make you strong. Now eat!

T: Why?

P (gritting teeth): They’re full of vitamins. No more questions!

T: But why, amma? Why do they have bit-a-mints?

God hasn’t created enough patience – not even in moms – to deal with all the ‘whys’ of a determinedly inquisitive toddler. And this, dear reader, is why parents learn to say “Because I said so.” We start out with the best of intentions – and I really do still try to stick with that resolution from my PPL – but sometimes, “Because.” is the only weapon left in our arsenal.

I’m also painfully aware that this is merely the beginning. The questions –and their answers – are only going to get tougher from here on. But, mere paas Google hai, so I say, bring it on, baby!

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Printable version | Aug 14, 2020 6:14:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/toddler-talk-those-q-and-a-sessions/article6672801.ece

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