I thought we’d entered the Recursive Why phase of Abigail’s life some time ago, but I was wrong. Every story, every scene in every movie, every natural or social concept, requires that the question “why” be answered. While this sounds like a positive approach to exploring the world, you’d be surprised how often “why” is an inexact way to explore a given set of circumstances. Picture yourself watching a movie. Let’s say it’s Mary Poppins. Let’s say the titular character has just completed dancing on the rooftops with a group of filthy men in dark clothing. Songs have been sung. Fireworks have been launched. Chimneys have been leapt down.
My point is that the question “why” as a standalone word, or even modified with, “did they say that,” “did they do that,” “are those there,” or any other of the myriad additions a three year old might make, doesn’t provide any more precision to help a person – let’s say a dad – figure out how to answer the question being asked.
You can try for clarification, but you’ll often just trap yourself deeper in the recursive loop. If you discover that she’s actually asking why they danced on the roof, for example, you might choose to respond with a nuanced description of the characters’ shared desire to express themselves through music and movement. You can also probably guess the question that this prompts.
I’ve taken a cue from my wife and just started responding with, “Why do you think?” For example, this very evening we read the Velveteen Rabbit. Abigail was concerned that the rabbit and the other toys had to be thrown away after the boy had been very sick. She asked, naturally, “Why did the doctor make them thrown them out?”
“Why do you think?”
“Because they had germs on them.”
“That’s right. They had germs so they had to be thrown out.”
The system has its flaws.
I love Abigail and her words. I try to hang on to her best quotes, but I lose a lot of them. I hate that feeling of realization that there was something I meant to write down that’s now lost forever.
In that spirit, I would like to offer up a short list of words that I know aren’t long for her vocabulary, but which I would like to acknowledge the existence of. These are words that I very much enjoy. This is by no means a comprehensive list. She has a whole host of words that are all her own, but these stand out.
Presnets – These are things you get on your birthday or from Santa.
Breaktest – Every morning, Abigail comes into our room and says, “I’m ready for breaktest.” Every morning.
Restronaut – Abigail has loved eating out at restronauts for years. I’ve mentioned this one before. It’s still awesome.
Squirt down – This is new. It’s what she says when she wants Gabe lowered into her presence.
That is all.