Complex Questions.

by Risa Green

 

It used to be that when my kids asked me questions, I always had an answer at the ready. At a moment’s notice, I could launch into age-appropriate explanations of the evils of cigarettes, how babies are made, what the seven words are that you can’t say on television and why the bad guys in Home Alone 2 don’t die when bricks are thrown at their heads from ten stories above. But lately, the questions have been getting more complex, and I’ve found myself in the totally unfamiliar state of being at a total loss for words.

 

Take, for example, a weekend trip we recently took with the kids to Las Vegas. Now, let me just say that a) Las Vegas has lots of family-friendly activities and we had one of the most awesome family weekends we’ve ever had, and b) I know, it’s Las Vegas, what did I think was going to happen. But in Las Vegas, as we were crossing through the casino in Mandalay Bay to get to the restaurant we were eating in one night (aren’t casinos supposed to be off-limits to children?), we happened to walk by a sub-section of the casino called the Pussycat Dolls Casino, in which women in skimpy, sequined bikinis and four-inch stilettos were dancing on the blackjack tables. My son, who was staring at the floor in an attempt to jump on every single swirly pattern in the entire carpet, didn’t even notice. But my daughter certainly did. She stared at the strippers – I mean dancers – and then turned her little face up to me, her eyes horrified and yet mesmerized at the same time, and said, Mommy. What. Is. That? And it was at that point that I realized that she had not yet caught on to the fact that women in our society are objectified, and I was sure as hell not about to explain it to her. So I created a diversion by pretending to trip over an old lady in a wheelchair, and then told my daughter to just keep walking.

 

Similarly, we were at baggage claim in the airport, coming back from a spring break trip to Mexico last week, and my daughter pulled out the little pink camera that she got for Hanukkah, in order to take pictures of the drug sniffing dog. The drug sniffing dog I was able to explain, no problem. But then a customs official came over and whispered to me that she’d better put her camera away before one of the federal officers took it away, and oh, boy, did that start a whole string of questions that I just could not, for the life of me, find a way to answer in any way, shape or form that would not completely terrify my children and prevent them from ever getting on another airplane for the rest of their lives. So I did the only thing I could do. I lied, and I told her that you’re not allowed to take pictures because something in the camera interferes with the frequencies of the conveyor belts, much the same way that using your cell phone on a plane interferes with the radio frequencies. I think she believed me, but just barely.

 

mrsncook
04.23.10

Out of curiosity, why not just answer her questions? Instead of lying to her, stressing yourself out, and faking injury, just tell her, "Some people think those costumes are very pretty. In Vegas, they want to be pretty. I don't like them, because I think they're too skimpy. Can you IMAGINE going out during the day in THAT? lol" Certainly the camera issue was not a big deal. "They're worried about privacy. The dogs are working, and they don't want people showing how the dogs work, because those dogs keep us safe."

You don't have to tell them about strippers and bombs until they're older, unless you want to. As far as bombs, what's wrong with telling her, "Those dogs make sure there is nothing unsafe in people's luggage. Then we can fly safely where we need to go." If you're concerned about follow up questions, just ask questions. "And where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world?" "I wonder what it would be like to fly like a bird."

When I was little, my family lied to me. I never forgot that, or how it felt to KNOW they weren't telling the truth but not know why. As a result, I try to always be age appropriate honest with my girls. And if something isn't appropriate, I just tell them, "That's a subject I think we should wait for until you're a little older." Now my girls are 13, 12, 10 1/2, and they love the fact I've been honest with them.

Verdazzle
04.22.10

Of course all questions seem easy when you are not currently in the situation. Most of the time I seem to get these questions when I am in a situation where some stress is occurring (imagine that a working mom with stress) and it is not that the question is difficult, just that I am unprepared and already at my capacity for functioning. I am often able to quickly come up with something clever that is made up, but not always sure how to be honest with my children without scaring them. It is unsettling as a parent when you realize you don't have all the answers, but I just own it and do my best to be the best mom I can be everyday, and if someone else doesn't like it...well you can't please everyone.

sea-mom
04.21.10

Whether you tell your kids the truth or not I believe there are some things children do not need to know, at least in certain subject areas. I worry so much about everything, why can't they just have some fun. We don't live that way any-longer. My daughter(8) will take everything to the top level. Sometimes white lies protect them for just a while longer until it's appropriate to discuss. Re: Vegas--My sister-n-law has been trying for years to get my husband and I to go to Vegas with them. I have 2 small children, she has 3 older daughters 16-24. She took them to Vegas and went to a show, my neice was probably 14 or 15. I'm not sure what happened, but my bro/sis-in-laws either said something or the audience said soemthing and somehow the show girl said on stage, Sorry, this place isn't for kids. I don't recall what my sister-n-law said, but I would agree. There may be family friendly places, but for now Vegas isn't a family vacation we're doing anytime soon.

mmgrandinetti
04.21.10

Half of the battle is being one step ahead of your child. All of the mom's who said, essentially, "Keep it short and sweet," are right on, in my opinion.

When my then 3 1/2 year old daughter asked how her little sister was going to get out of my tummy, I told her that the Doctor was going to help get her out. That satisfied her for a month or two, then she needed details. We now have to remind her not to share the details with her friends...they are for the friend's parents to share!

tsquire
04.21.10

I dont find any question difficult to answer (son now 10 years old); always the truth. Not to embellish it with too much detail and only stick to answering the question frankly and bluntly but always the truth...this is the world that they live in and will grow to be hopefully responsible/respectable adults in...and some of it isnt pretty.
Yes, the ladies are dancing for entertainment just as when you see in a play or movie...
You cannot take pictures in the airport as security and police handle such matters and they like to keep their areas secure from photography; if there are bad guys to catch at the airport then the proper people will take care of it..no worries..
Children have a great way of usually accepting short answers but I believe that they deserve to be told somewhat of a truth to their inquisitiveness.
So far has worked for my son...he is aware, responsible and not naiive. And he understand what morals and judgements we place on certain situations.

neuromum
04.21.10

Interesting article! But I didn't think those questions were so hard to answer. For the dancing girls: "Well, some men like to watch women dance like that, and for those women, that's their job. It isn't a job I would want, but maybe its working out for them!" For the camera: "Some people try to bring things on an airplane that are illegal and unsafe, so the dogs are here to detect those things." And with the shoes: "Believe it or not, some guy tried to sneak explosive stuff on a plane in his shoes, so now we all have to take off our shoes at the airport to make sure we aren't sneaking anything in. That guy ruined it for everybody! But at least he didn't try to sneak the explosives in his underwear!"

PJsMom
04.21.10

Off to Vegas this weekend. how timely. No kids, thank goodness. Even the flyers all over the ground - for "gentlemen's clubs" are beyond my capacity to explain.

neuromum
04.21.10

Interesting article! But I didn't think those questions were so hard to answer. For the dancing girls: "Well, some men like to watch women dance like that, and for those women, that's their job. It isn't a job I would want, but maybe its working out for them!" For the camera: "Some people try to bring things on an airplane that are illegal and unsafe, so the dogs are here to detect those things." And with the shoes: "Believe it or not, some guy tried to sneak explosive stuff on a plane in his shoes, so now we all have to take off our shoes at the airport to make sure we aren't sneaking anything in. That guy ruined it for everybody! But at least he didn't try to sneak the explosives in his underwear!"