Sunday, July 12, 2015

"Why" Questions, With No Answers

I read somewhere that a mother of a five or six year old child answers around 300 questions a day. Multiply that by the number of days in a year and the number of children around. Sometimes moms get tired of answering questions. Sometimes a mom might even tune some of those little voices right out and stop answering some of those questions. I’ve done it.

The where, how, what, and particularly the why questions can get tiring. And it is especially trying for a mom when a child questions her instructions with “why.” I have been known on occasion to use the old “Because I said so” standby that my own mother sometimes used.

My youngest two are eleven and thirteen so I should be done with the constant questions, but I am not. Because of Sydney’s developmental delay it seems we are stuck there, never able to move on to the next stage. I’m almost certain Sydney is still asking me 300 questions a day, much as a five or six year old would. Sometimes I feel like I am living a life like Bill Murray lived in the movie Groundhog Day. It gets so repetitive. Sometimes, I find myself tuning her out and even asking her to stop asking questions for a few minutes so I can concentrate on the task at hand.

Although Tate also has a developmental delay, his is a different story. Due to autism Tate rarely asked me the why or how questions, or much of anything else when he was younger. And when he did, it was something I celebrated by letting everyone close to us know that it had happened. But lately, Tate has surprised me several times, almost grilling me, about a subject. His why questions are coming more often but they are not usually the typical why questions a younger typically developing child would ask. Tate often wants to know the answers to questions that many of us would not ask.

Yesterday Tate asked me where his older sister was. I explained she was on a road trip, travelling to visit friends. So he pressed me for details, wondering exactly where she was. I was taken aback just a little but was happy to answer. I told Tate what state his sister is in right now. He then said, “How come she wanted to visit friends?” and after that one, “When will she be home?” Because Tate very seldom is interested enough to ask questions about these kinds of things, it was surprising to me. And as often happens, when Tate does something he did not do “on time” it is a giant reminder to me of all the things he SHOULD have done. And it reminds me just how far behind he really is, on more than one level. He truly did not understand why his sister would drive hours to see friends. He would not inconvenience himself like that to see someone. Knowing he could not comprehend the WHY behind my daughter’s trip made me sad. But I still celebrated his interest and the fact that he had asked.

Because of Tate’s lack of social skills, sometimes he loudly questions things the rest of us would not because it would be considered rude. For example, when we have visitors in Bible class (Sunday school), he demands to know WHY they have come. No matter how many times I remind him we want visitors to feel welcome and invite them back, he treats them as if they are intruders who need interrogating. I know his questions have a lot to do with the change in his routine. A visitor causes him a little unease. But, I have found myself wanting to ask Tate, “Seriously? Now? Now is the time you decide to ask questions? You did not ask them at all the appropriate times, but you can come up with this many questions when the time is not right?”

Alas, it would do no good to ask him because Tate answers questions with less reliability than he asks them. His receptive language is so much better than his expressive language so he cannot explain the motives he has behind much of anything. He cannot usually tell me why he does anything he does, nor can he put into words how he feels about things. When Tate uses the word “because” in a sentence it seldom really fits. He might explain to me why he paces when he is anxious by telling me, “Because that is what teenaged boys do.” If I ask him why he does not like the braces on his teeth he will tell me something like, “It is illegal to put braces on thirteen year old boys.” I think I know the answers to those questions and I suspect he also knows the answers to those questions but he cannot communicate those things to me with words.  

And just as I was typing up the end of my thoughts on this subject, my husband came from Tate’s room chuckling. He had just asked Tate to speak to his grandparents on the phone. Tate, totally baffled as to the reason his dad was interrupting his movie viewing to speak on the phone, asked, “Why?” Reasons like, “Because they’d like to hear from you.” or  “Because they love you.” do not really solve the mystery for Tate. So the first thing Tate said in the short phone conversation he had with his grandparents was of course, “Why’d you call here?”

You might also enjoy this post: Lost in the Translation or this one: Speaking Tate's Language

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