When my kids ask a straight question, they get a straight answer.
Zacharie knows that babies grow inside a Momma’s tummy and they’re made when a man gives a woman his sperm. Sure, he calls it “squirm” and announced that he wanted to “give my squirm to Momma because I love her”, so while he gets a straight answer, there may not always be a straight understanding.
Which is why I don’t push it. I don’t go out of my way to explain things that are over his head. But if he asks, he gets an answer. Always.
“Why do we have belly buttons?” was easy.
“Why is Nana dead?” was a little tougher.
But when bad things are happening around the world, I don’t make it a point of exposing my kids to it. Why should I go out of my way to explain rape, murder, war to a 7 year old?
No News Is Good News
The news is never on when the kids are around. Never. We’re reaching a point where we can no longer spell things out, or even talk over the kids’ heads at the dinner table. They’re aware. They’re starting to understand. The cone of silence has descended.
Earlier this month, Calgary was rocked to the core when a family, 2 grandparents and their grandson, were murdered. And, for 2 weeks, everyone wondered what happened to these people. Given this young boy was 5 and the propensity of parents to fear the worst for their own, an uneasy mood covered the city.
This week, when police announced the trio was dead and a family acquaintance was charged with their murders, the shock and sadness exploded with emotion. The city openly wept.
People gathered in parks around the city to release green balloons into the sky in memory. They donned green ribbons. Kids were at these events. But not mine.
Image via Ian D Keating on Flickr
While my wife and I have shared tears at the news and have sighed in sorrow for the family, my sons don’t know that a little boy who lived a few blocks from our house was murdered when he went to visit his grandparents. The same week this family was missing, my boys were on a vacation with their own grandparents. Why would I want to openly discuss with my kids that when you stay with people you love, a person you know can come in and kill everyone? Why?
You Don’t Need To Tell Them Everything
The “how to talk to your kids about tragedy” stories are now coming up. The same kind that showed up after Sandy Hook. The same kind that showed up after Boston. The same kind that… you get the routine.
“Kids talk on the playground. They understand more than you think,” was the rebuttal I got from parents when I expressed wonder as to why kids would attend these events and why the explanations needed to be given.
This is one of the pitfalls of parenting. You can wrap your kids as tightly as you want in your own ideology and philosophy, but the moment they get in the real world, it comes crumbling down.
Stories get told. Facts get misinterpreted. The lowest common denominator reigns.
And, if that playground talk happens, and my kids come home and ask questions, a straight answer will be given. Until then? Why would I try to open up that nasty, evil, fear-filled can of worms?
This is summer. There is no school for my kids to go to hear from a brat a story his older brother misunderstood their parents talking about. When kids go to the playground, the stories told should be about making up rules for random creative role playing games on the equipment, not “Hey did you hear Nathan got murdered?” to be followed with “What’s murder?”
That’s not anything we should push our kids to know. Not now. Not yet. Not at 7. Not at 4.
My kids will get a straight answer when they ask a question. I guarantee they always will. I don’t want to sugarcoat things, and have them living in a naive world. BUT .. they need to ask the question. I don’t need to open their eyes, give them irrational fear, and try to explain the unexplainable before they’re ready.
Why would anyone want to do that?
As always, this is my take on things, your mileage may vary. I hope the piece gives you pause to think about how you do things in your family and helps to confirm or give you new insight. Respectful comments are always welcome.