I dreaded those four words. Separately they weren’t so bad. I could adjust to them if they were attached to other words, but when they were put together, back to back, they inspired a sense of helplessness, of uncertainty, and mostly of frustration. And, ironically, I heard them more often than not the older I got, whenever I asked my mother a question. Because I said so.
You’ve heard it before. You’ve probably even used it before. Believe me, I have. But have you ever really stopped and wondered why parents tend to rely on this classic gem when answering their children’s fervent questions?
“Mom, how come I have to take my shoes off in the house?”
“Dad, why I gotta go in the bathroom? I don’t gotta pee.”
“Mom, why can’t I eat Frosted Flakes like all my friends?”
“Dad, why ain’t you lettin’ me play in the street?”
BECAUSE I SAID SO. And you could always tell by the curl of their lip when they said it that they wanted to add on something else but they curbed themselves. Of course I was the kid who made up the addition in my own head every single time. “Because I said so… you little punk.” “Because I said so… you ungrateful loser.” Yeah, I didn’t have a very high opinion of myself back then, if you couldn’t tell. In reality, I’m sure they were only going to add, “Because I said so… now please stop asking!”
Parents have an awesome responsibility, one I never truly realized until I became a parent. We are expected to go outside of the home to make a living, to support our families, and more often than not that means both mommy and daddy working. Then when we get home we need to deal with the kids, every single little issue they have. We have to feed them, clothe them, keep them from harm, direct them in what to do, create things for them to do when they’re bored, find suitable play dates, ferry them from one place to another, and the list goes on. So, when they ask us for further reasoning when we say something, it’s not that we don’t know the reason. It’s because we’re so exhausted from having to do so much else. We give them the only answer that actually comes easily.
But it’s not really an answer. And our kids know it, just like we knew it when we were their age. And it doesn’t even end up being the easy solution to an actual answer, either, because our kids keep pressing the point, especially if you have kids like mine. “But why?” “But why?” I always hear when I give that answer, an echo of years gone by when I myself asked “WHY?” more often than not with my own mother. Whenever I tell her that, by the way, she always chuckles and tells me I’m finally getting to understand why she did and said what she did to me all those years ago.
So, I try not to say it so much anymore. Instead, I try to think about how best to explain my actual reasoning. Sure, it might take an extra few minutes up front to think of how to articulate it, but it saves time on the back end, when my girls inevitably would ask me “Why?” ad nauseum. And I like that idea a lot better.
“But daddy, why don’t you say ‘Because I said so,’ anymore?”