“How does a Doctor get a baby out?”
“What’s a world war?”
“How old are we when we die?”
“Is God real?”
All these questions, it’s only 8.43am, I still haven’t brushed my hair, I haven’t had any caffeine yet, and to be honest I don’t even know what I’ve got on in my diary that day. Yet philosopher, theorist and academic I’m expected to be in the car on the school run. Every. Single. Morning.
The current issue with my children though, is that I can’t just ‘fob’ them off anymore. Throwaway and casual answers for these big, important life questions simply will not cut it (nor does pretending not to hear them). If I fluff the answer I only end up digging myself into a big hole and then I’m sweating profusely and spouting out stuff I don’t mean.
“Storks bring babies to the parents”
“Where does the stork get the baby from?”
“From a baby factory”
“Who works there?”
“Errr, grown ups. People”
“Does anyone we know work there?”
“So why don’t we see any storks flying around then, and why do ladies have such big tummies with babies in them?”
However, as they’re only six years old, the balance of telling them the whole truth and nothing but the truth versus feeding them a sugarcoated lie that you might tell a toddler, is, well, currently proving a tricky one to navigate. And recently, I’ve not been sure what the right thing to do is.
Lately my twins both seem extraordinarily fascinated and intrigued with the world around them, naturally. They are inquisitive and crave information. And of course I want them to know the reality around life and humankind and not feed them bullshit about ‘storks bringing babies’ etc. But, on the flip-side, can I really tell them that the surgeon performed an emergency caesarian section on me, sliced my belly open with a scalpel to get them both out during their birth, and then sewed me back up again?
Yet they desire knowledge; they also desperately want my opinion too. Their little faces look up at my Husband and I for our attitudes on science, religion, politics, relationships, work etc. And the REALLY daunting thing is that whatever we tell them is likely to be their view going forward for the foreseeable future, too.
No pressure, hey?
I also know, that whatever we say on a matter they’ll run straight into school and tell all their friends, which will then get back to the teachers — and of course, other parents. I can just picture Harry standing up and announcing in assembly, in his loudest voice, “Mummy said Donald Trump is a massive idiot who should not be president”, or “My Dad says feminists are just all angry”. So it’s quite a tricky one to handle.
All Hubby and I can aim to do therefore, (as modern parents), is discuss life matters with our kids in a fair, equal, inclusive and open-minded way. Plus I guess they are old enough now to know that sometimes the world around them is a difficult and complex place to live in; with sadness, grief and hostility.
A lot of advice on the Internet is to treat these kinds of tricky questions in an age-appropriate way, which makes total sense. Plus, we all know our kids best and how to deal with their needs. My best friend’s little girl is only two weeks older than my twins, yet she is more mature in certain ways, and so it is probably best judged on a parent by parent basis.
Suzie Hayman, author of How to Have a Happy Family Life, said in The Express, “The important thing is to appear open and willing to answer questions. If you don’t answer your child satisfactorily, or you make them feel bad for asking, they may be reluctant to ask other questions that are important to them. So you have to come up with an answer – and not just a sentence but a proper discussion”.
“A good way to start”, says Hayman, “is by turning the question back and saying, What do you think? That will give you an idea of what the child knows already, and what they are really trying to ask”.
So next time there’s a tricky question thrown at me — likely to be tonight at dinner, when we’re casually sitting and eating around the table — (probably about death, or Jesus), I’ll aim to find out what they already know, discuss it in an age-appropriate way, and try to answer as best I can. And then myself pour a large glass of wine and take several deep breaths. Plus, within about three minutes they’ll be asking Alexa to play the “poo poo” song and rolling around the floor pretending to be dogs and will likely forget most of what I said anyway. That’s what makes childhood so bloody wonderful.
Love, Jess x