What Are You Doing?

Some kids ask “why?” incessantly. My friend’s four-year-old is one of those kids. And I know it’s a pain in the ass; I really do. But lately, I’ve been wishing that that’s what my kid would be asking. At least then I’d get to dream up some creative answers. Exercise my brain. But The Who doesn’t have a sense of “why” yet. In fact, when I ask him “why” something, he just answers yes or no. “Are you sad?” “Yeah.” “Why are you sad?” “Yeah.” It’s as if he doesn’t register the “why” part of the question. For all of the ease of communication we have with our very verbal 2-year-old, the “why” is completely lost on him and makes trying to parse crying jags all that much more difficult. He’ll get there, I’m sure. And when he does, I will probably want to open a vein, much like my friend with the 4-year-old inquisitor.

What I do have, though, if not a “why?” asker, is a “what are you doing?” asker. Always. Constantly. Multiple times in the same 5-minute span like a brain injured patient whose memory resets every 30 seconds. He also emphasizes the “you” so it almost sounds like Joey Tribbiani hitting on someone and I might be inclined to laugh if it weren’t so effing annoying.

What are YOU doing?
I’m changing your diaper.
What are YOU doing?
I’m putting your jacket on.
What are YOU doing?
I’m going potty.
What are YOU doing?
I’m doing the dishes.
What are YOU doing?
I’m starting the car.
What are YOU doing?
I’m driving to school.

You get the picture. Usually I answer as straightforwardly as possible, over and over and over until he seems satisfied. Sometimes he switches it up and asks me what he is doing. Just now, in fact, we had this exchange:

What are ME doing?
What ARE you doing?
I’m reaching my foot. What are ME doing?
You’re reaching your foot.
Yeah. What are YOU doing?


3 thoughts on “What Are You Doing?

  1. Your son’s friend sounds completely age-appropriate, and so does your son! As mind-numbing as it can be, talking with young children as they develop is crucial to their progress. Sometimes I just made stuff up and got silly with my answers to keep my brain working right. It seemed to frustrate, confuse, or amuse my son, depending on his mood. But it kept him engaged and me calm. Meanwhile, you get the adult conversation you can by phone, job, babysitters, marketing, etc. And the kid gets to grow up and figure out how to REALLY annoy you when he’s older!

    • Oh, I know. I really do, which is why I try so hard to continue to answer him and honor his curiosity and the way he’s figuring out the world. But sometimes, despite my years of studying child development and working as a teacher, I still just wanna drop-kick him at the end of a day like today!

  2. We’re madly into “why.” Some days I cannot STAND it. I try not to get frustrated and shut him down, but jesus. Sometimes I have to answer “I don’t know,” to which he responds, “Why?” As in, “Why don’t you know, Mommy?” And then I have to launch into this thing about Rumsfeld and the unknown unknowns and so on and yaddah yaddah and you’d think that would do it, but no.

    “But why?”


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