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.