It has been 22 months since Martin constructed his first “why” question: “My daddy, why he don’t come home?”
Since then, the why question hasn’t really come up again, much. As I’ve written, Martin’s development bounces that way; a skill emerges, hides, and then—explodes.
Boom! Over the past two weeks, the sky has filled with why questions and they’re raining all over me. Martin is asking both standard, practical questions (“Why can’t I ride in the grocery cart?” “Why do I have to take a bath?”) and the maddening questions I don’t know how to answer (“Why do the months go from January to December?” “Why are the clouds made of water?”).
The ancestral question—“My daddy, why he don’t come home?”—was a “why not” question. Despite the recent onslaught of why questions, I had not heard another “why not” until this morning, when Martin asked, “Why is a softball not soft?” (Here I can’t resist a pun: That question was no softball to answer.) Now that “why not” is back, I’m already anticipating the arrival of “why can’t I…” questions.
As I understand human development, most typical kids pass through a “why” phase around age four. Martin is six. That’s not so far off.
My favorite why question so far? Sunday morning, we were driving to church when Martin asked, “Mommy, why is the man in the garbage?” I looked and saw a maintenance working standing in a trash can, a rake lying nearby. I said, “I thinking the man’s using his weight to pack fallen leaves into the garbage. Isn’t that silly? A man in the garbage!” Then Martin and I shared a good laugh, which if you have a child with autism is an achievement in itself.