Putting the “Why” in Whining

Posted on July 24, 2011


Born with a why chromosomeOne of the things you’ll realize as you become more and more like your parents is that there are certain questions that we really don’t like. Most of the really big offenders seem to start with the word “Why.”

At first it’s all real innocent: “Daddy, why do dogs not fly like birds?” Or, “Why is the sky blue?” Or, “Why are you sleeping on the couch again?”*

If the “why” word were only used for inquiring about natural phenomena like the laws of physics, I could live with it; it gives us dads the chance to show you how good we are at making up answers to stuff we know nothing about. But the word soon becomes the leading edge of a wedge that’s driven into a parent’s head with the weight of a whole whiney sentence behind it. It’s no coincidence that “whine” starts with “why.”

When you have a 10 year old, absolutely no good can come from a sentence that starts with “why.” What was once looked upon as a splendid entrée to a teachable moment—an opportunity for Dad to lie through his teeth and further the misperception that he knows everything—transforms into a parent’s most feared sentence-starter.  The most common uses include: “Why do I have to…”, “Why don’t I get to…” and its cousin, “Why do you get to…”

As parents we have very few effective coping mechanisms for this why-ning and we usually default to logic. You see, we like to remind ourselves that despite the death grip our child has on our current physical and emotional state, the grownup still has logic on their side.

Unfortunately, as you demonstrate daily, logic is absolutely useless when wielded against a why-ning 10 year old.  Carrying logic into an argument with a child is about as effective as trying to stop a bank robbery with a squirt gun.

But if all you’ve got is a squirt gun, you’ll look for the nearest faucet and hope for the best.

In the spirit of helping you adapt to becoming your parents, I’ve listed below some of our most common responses to kid why-ning. As lame as they are, they’re the best weapon we’ve got. You’ll probably want to use them when you’ve got a why-ner of your own.

  • Because Mom and I aren’t your bloody servants.
  • Because you made the mess in the first place.
  • Because I’m a bit too busy taking all the green things out of your spaghetti sauce for you.
  • Because there’s no way in hell that I’m going to spend my own hard earned money on a toy you’ll use once.
  • Because you’re old enough to wipe it yourself.
  • Because I’m still trying to fix the other toys you broke.
  • Because you’re the one who insisted you didn’t need to pee before going to bed.
  • Because Grandma will never get you another gift again if you don’t write it.
  • Because I’m not the one who stayed up until midnight last night and is now throwing a tantrum every thirty seconds.
  • Because we’re the bloody adults and if we want a second cookie we can have it.
  • Because when your friends say they get to stay home and watch video games instead of going to camp, they’re lying.
  • Because I’m not a damn garbage can.
  • Because you are perfectly capable of carrying it yourself.
  • Because if we let you choose, you’ll only eat gummy worms and cookies and wash them down with chocolate milk.

Eventually, you’ll just start saying “Because I said so.” At that point, I’d like you to think back to this day and remember reading this:

Well, now you know how we felt. Payback’s a bitch.

*I’m not exactly sure I got the answer to the last one right, by the way; us guys rarely actually know why we’re sleeping on the couch. We just know we did something wrong. It’s kind of like giving the dog a time out 2 hours after he chewed your shoe.