Mom is happy to explain "What happened?'

February 16, 2012|Amy Dulebohn

I'm a journalist by trade, but perhaps a little nosy by design. At not quite 2 years old, my daughter seems to be developing some of the same characteristics.

Her favorite catchphrase of late: "What happened?" She loves to ask this question. All the time.

She will ask it whether she hears a noise, someone trips or exclaims, "Ouch," after a minor bump. Have I mentioned I'm not particularly graceful?

My favorite example of her use of her catchphrase was when, at the baby-sitter's house, she fell backward from a tall chair. Unharmed but rightfully scared, she held her breath as she is prone to do when upset, and once she exhaled, her first words were, "What happened?"

Another incident comes up often at home. The door leading to the stairs latches with an old metal doorknob. Recently, a screw from the knob disappeared and the knob fell off its rod. "What happened?" she loves to ask as she points to the knobless door each morning when we descend the stairs, and each evening as we ascend them.

My mother has a back scratcher she's owned for more than 50 years. It survived half a century, a move or two, and life with my dad and me and my sister. Its undoing came in the form of my little girl. As a young toddler, she managed to break off the four fingers and thumb from the plastic prosthetic. Perhaps for posterity, or perhaps because she's a bit of a hoarder, Mom still keeps the back scratcher in the same spot on her nightstand. "What happened?" my daughter demands every time she picks up the relic.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the fine line between answering her every query with the PC response and being off the cuff. For example, do I tell her that Granny's back scratcher is "broken" because she pulled the fingers off of it, or is that a hostile "You message"? Should I instead say, "Your grandmother's back scratcher no longer functions effectively because parts of it have been severed, rendering it useless."  

I have never used either response, at least not word for word. As a parent, I always try to appreciate all of our moments together — good and not so good. But I have to say it is sometimes frustrating when, no matter how I answer her, she still responds simply, "Why, Mommy?" In any case, I try not to undermine her questions.

I am glad she is curious about the world around her. Nosy? No. I think her early interest in her surroundings bodes well for her future as an informed and perceptive individual. And these attributes might serve her well in various careers — research, forensics, psychology, mathematics, yes, even journalism.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, "Whatever you are, be a good one." My daughter has plenty of time to try hobbies, activities, even careers. Perhaps she will try a variety of each until she finds her niche. And that's OK. I just hope that no matter what she is, she strives to be "a good one." Even if that means I have to answer a lot of questions along the way.

First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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