Why “Why” Is The Best (and Most Annoying) Question of All

Four-year-olds can be annoying.

I have a four-year-old.  His name is Huckleberry Finn.  Huck is a vivacious and inquisitive little guy who wants to know everything about everything.  He asks a lot of questions.  His favorite question is, “why?”

“Why can’t I wear my Superman costume for Christmas Eve mass?”

“Why do I have to brush my teeth again?”

“Why can’t we buy trains every time we go to the store?”

“Why does the car need gas?”

“Why do we have to sleep?”

“Why can’t we go to Thomasland TODAY?”

“Why is {our dog} Jack so fluffy?”

“Why does the moon come out at night?”

“Why is it cold?”

“Why is it hot?”

“Why is there a sun?”

“Why am I so little?”

“Why is there wind?”

These are sweet questions.  They make me think.  I’m usually pretty patient with the “why” questions … at first.  But, Huck doesn’t like to stop with one or even two “why” questions.  Huck likes to ask a LOT of “why” questions.

“Why can’t I eat ice cream for breakfast? … Why is it bad for me?  … Why is sugar bad?… But why does it taste good? … Why do we need teeth? …. Why can’t we buy new ones? … Why don’t you want me to be hyper? … Why are you scared of a sugar crash? … Why do you want to feed me nutritious food?  … Why do you want me to be healthy?”

Oh, it can be annoying – and yet, if I’m willing to play along and don’t have a fork nearby to stick in my eye, by the time we get to the last question, I’m often hit with an “aha!” moment.  Huck, with all his exasperating inquiries, will usually eventually hit a question that really matters.  He can get to the heart of an issue and really make me see a truth.

“Why does Daddy work every day? … Why do we need money? … Why do we need a house? … Why do we need electricity? … Why do we need food? … Why do we need so much stuff?”

Good question, buddy.  Maybe we don’t need so much stuff.

“Why do you do yoga, Mommy?  …. Why do you need to exercise? … Why do you feel stressed? …  Why do you need to relax? … Why do you want to feel good? … Why do you want energy? … Why are you tired? … Why do you want to live longer?”

Good question, my little love.  Shouldn’t I want to live better, not just longer?

Dare I say it – those “why’s” of his are actually a little bit wise.  It’s not simply annoying to field the barrage questions – sometimes it’s downright necessary.  In answering the questions, I’m teaching him a little bit about life, but I’m also learning a little bit about life, too.

I decided to test out this theory with a couple things that I have felt stuck with in my life lately.  I simply decided to sit down with a pen and some paper and ask myself “why” until I was out of answers.  I started with something that many people can relate to.  I want more money.  But why?

Why do I want to earn a million dollars?  Because it will give our family security.  Why do I want security?  I want to be able to count on my next meal and give our kids a good education and experience life.  I guess I don’t question where my next meal is coming from, come to think of it.  And we have their education fund set up.  But I want the freedom to be able to explore the world.  Why should we explore the world?  Because we can learn and grow from experiencing different cultures and perspectives.  Why should we learn and grow?  To be the best version of ourselves.  To give back to the universe.  To fulfill our life’s mission.  But why do we need a million dollars to do that?  Oh.

I found this little exercise to be deeply personal and spiritually grounding.  Asking myself “why” was the little push I needed to get myself out of my head.  I have a tendency to overthink, but I tend to overthink the minutiae of life rather than the important stuff.  Taking a moment to get to the crux of my angst was well worth the annoyance of the “why?”

When we feel stuck in life, like we are running around in little hamster wheels and not getting anywhere, the right “why” question has the potential to change our perspective completely.

Maybe we need to annoy ourselves with a few more “why’s” a little more often.

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