What “Because I Said So” Really Means
The first time I laid eyes on my daughter, she looked like a pea pod. She had only existed for 6 weeks inside my womb, and yet there she was, dangling from my uterine wall by her head. A vegetable-shaped person with a swooshing heartbeat.
Since then, she has grown. Morphed, really. I mean now, at three years old, at least she looks human. That’s progress.
Also at three years old, she has talents and preferences. Strengths and weaknesses. And a ridiculously insatiable curiosity. There are some days I wonder if she’s forgotten every word in her growing vocabulary aside from one: Why.
“Marie, eat your dinner.”
“Because food gives you energy and makes you strong.”
I can’t explain carbs and lipids and proteins to a toddler, so I simply shrug. “That’s just how it is.”
Every single conversation goes this way. Life constantly gets boiled down to the molecular level and I’m expected to explain that to a three-year-old.
For a while, I would bypass the spiraling conversations and start with the age-old line.
Because I said so.
The words were like dear friends, and they became as automatic as my daughter’s questions.
But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
“Why?” I asked myself. “Why did I say so?”
Mostly, I discovered, the root of my choices stem from what I truly believe is best for my daughter. The tricky part was getting my daughter to understand that and trust it.
So the next time, I try to use different words. I try to say what ‘Because I said so’ really means.
It’s actually the question, “Do you trust me?”
It isn’t long before she gives me the opportunity.
“Marie, it’s bedtime,” I say when she comes out of her room late at night. “You need to stay in your bed and go to sleep.”
“Why?” she whines.
“Do you know I want what’s best for you?” I ask.
Her little face looks up at me, partially confused, partially shocked. Certainly she was expecting to dodge another ‘Because I said so’ as it flew from my mouth.
“My decisions are good for you, even if they’re not what you want,” I explain further, brushing blond hair behind her tiny ear. “My job as your mom is to keep you healthy and strong, so my decisions are meant to keep you healthy and strong.”
Contempt scrunches her face and wrinkles her miniature nose. She wanted me to say she could stay awake longer.
“Do you trust me?” I ask.
She pauses for a moment to take in my words. “Yes,” she finally mutters.
“And right now, going to sleep is what’s best for you. Do you trust me?”
“Okay.” She huffs her displeasure, but marches back to her room and curls up on the bed, ready for sleep.
Now—six weeks into my third pregnancy—I sit half-naked on a doctor’s table because the bleeding hasn’t stopped for four days. The doctor lumbers in, draped in his white coat and a thick cloak of concern.
“This doesn’t look normal,” he says slowly, pointing out all the abnormalities on the ultrasound. Highlighting all the shades of gray on his black-and-white screen.
There’s no swooshing heartbeat like there had been with my first daughter. No sign of life for the mass inside me.
The doctor doesn’t need to speak. Not really. His drooping eyes and deliberate demeanor say it all.
But he keeps talking, anyway. Maybe he’s professionally required to do so. Whatever the case, I can practically see him hand-select each word before it comes out of his mouth.
“I expect this pregnancy will miscarry,” he says.
From a distance, the word seems innocent enough. Commonplace. Easy, even.
But when you get closer, it reeks of blood. Like iron and death.
And when you get a little too close, it sounds like pain. The pain of childbirth. The pain of a lost child. The pain of delivering your dead baby then watching it swirl down the toilet drain with the rest of your insides.
“What?” I ask, partially confused, partially shocked. “Why?”
The doctor goes on, explaining that most miscarriages occur because of genetic abnormalities. That we did nothing wrong, these things just happen.
But my question wasn’t directed at him, so his response sails over my head.
What the heck? Why is this happening?
This time I ask the questions quietly, in the space only God will hear.
I can almost feel Him kneel beside me in this sterile room and tuck my hair behind my ear. Can nearly feel His life-giving breath upon my face, despite the death in my womb. I can almost hear the question that will determine everything.
“Do you trust me?”