So if you have read any of my blog or specifically the last post, you will clearly see my stance on the importance of giving children real answers to real questions. Too often parents think that the truth is too much to handle or that somehow giving them fantasy answers like, “Your horse went to live at Uncle Jim’s ranch” is somehow going to protect them. I think we should respect our children enough to give them age-appropriate factual answers that they can interpret for themselves. By being honest with children we send the message that I love and respect you enough and validate your curiosity.
Up until one day last week I thought Brian and I have handled Pickle’s questions pretty darn well. From my father’s cancer and surgery, to the tragic death of a young cousin, to why boys stand and girls sit to use the potty. We’ve covered it well. Last week we were sitting on the sofa giggling because both she and her baby brother had the hiccups at the same time. We could hear hers, of course but only see and feel the hiccups of the little Prince. Pickle had her hand on my belly and was getting a true kick out of feeling every little spasm as he hiccupped away. It was as if time stood still when she looked up at me, hand on my belly, and asked, “Mommy, how will baby brother get out?”
My brain went silent. The room around me seemed to stand still and all I could hear was a deafening chorus of what sounded like ten million cicadas laughing at me. I swallowed hard. Does she really need to know this? Does she really want to know this? Is it my time as her mother to determine that what she thinks she wants to know is not at all what she really wants to know? Is three years old the time to know that all of what is currently in mommy’s belly will eventually come out of mommy’s – I stop myself and remember the story of my brother.
From what I have been told, only because my brother is three years older than me so I was not there at this event, however my mother remembers it well. My brother was probably in first or second grade so about six or seven, when he came home and asked my parents what a certain curse word meant. It was the big one, the F word. I’m sure a lot for my parents considering his young age and such a mature word. He wanted to know what it meant. Well, he thought he wanted to know what it meant. For whatever reason, my father thought it was the time to explain to him what the word meant. Literally. So at the tender age of six or seven my brother got the mother-load of knowledge, well before he was anywhere near ready. He was unable to process the fact that his father did those things to his mother. My mother recounts the endless evenings at the dinner table when he would sit quietly, stare at his plate and begin to cry. He could not bear to see his parents knowing what they were doing behind closed doors! As a six-year-old, I guess it really does sound terrible.
So back to my sofa. Will knowing the truth in this case be too much? Will images of babies crawling out of their mother’s who-ha cause nightmares for Pickle?
Thankfully I pumped the brakes a bit and relied on what else? Fantasy. I know, I can’t believe it either. Not my typical way of operating but it worked. First, I answered her question with nothing better than another question. I said to her, “That’s a great question, Pickle! How do you think he will get out?” After a few giggles and a few “I don’t knows” she responded with this, “I think the doctor will put a straw down your throat and baby brother will crawl out of your mouth.” My response? “I love you. Dinner’s almost done, ready to eat?”
Did I mention that while I believe that children deserve answers to their questions, I also believe that parents don’t have to be the ones with all of the answers. In this case, I was especially glad to have a back-up belief.