I’m not sure if I was seven or eight years old. I had been awoken in the night by cries from my mother for help. “Oh God, Oh God yes”.
Like any other good son, I knocked on my parents’ bedroom door and asked my mum if she was alright?
After a few moments of silence, and some stifled laughter, I was told to go back to bed.
The upshot of this was that I got a new bedroom the very next day. At the far end of the house and on my own. That’s the kind of reward you can expect for going to the aid of your stricken mother…. Or so I thought.
Years later and much to my embarrassment I realised what had gone on that night and how my parents had dealt with having a growing lad, who was soon to be asking a lot of questions, a lot of difficult questions.
This is part of the parenting experience, they don’t put it in a hand book, these are the parenting skills that are learnt on the fly and under fire – How to answer children’s questions.
It really begins around three or four years of age with the old classic “Why”? I think it very much depends on the child how you answer these probing, inquisitive digs into your knowledge bank. Nowadays you can talk to uncle Google, or Aunty Wikipedia, they tend to be the eternal book of everything. Although it’s a poor man who puts his trust in digital media for everything.
With my own kids, I found that answering with the truth, (albeit watered down a little) was the ideal way to respond. It satisfies their curiosity and they wander off slightly better informed than they would if they learn from the playground.
I was a constant questioner. I would wake up in the middle of the night, walk to my parents room and ask my dad (because he slept nearest to the door) “Why are we born – if we are only going to die”? (Yes, I was that sort of kid, a philosopher at 5 Yrs. old).
Although never shouted at, I was always sent back to bed unsatisfied and desperate for answers. I think maybe why that is the reason I have struggled with the whole circle of life for so many years. Only this year it was finally put to rest by Prof Brian Cox with his excellent series ‘The Wonders of the Universe’ and the episode ‘Dust’.
Kids are frighteningly honest. They say what they mean, it comes from the heart and it is truthful and insightful. Such as the questions from my daughter when I brought home a friend for lunch: “Daddy, why has that man got a big nose?” Now there was no doubting that he did have a very big nose. It was what we called a Roman nose in my home town – it was Roamin’ all over his face. But no one would say what they were thinking. It’s un-polite, it can be hurtful and as adults we just accept that all people are different. All my daughter could see was an enormous hooter and she wanted to know why…. There’s that ‘why’ question J
Travelling up a packed escalator with my son, he suddenly asked”Dad, what’s a Condom?”. The guy travelling behind me chipped in “Go on then, tell him”. At his tender age I didn’t think it was worth telling him the exact truth (that was a talk some way down the track) I told him they were party balloons – it wasn’t really a Lie, I’d blown up a few in my time.
As they get older the questions are more direct and the answers are more important to them. This is when you have to bury thousands of years or repressed feelings, look them in the eye and do the best you can. Because that’s what it’s all about, doing the best you can, with the information you have to hand – remembering you were once in that position.
Over the years I have spoken with a lot of teenage boys. As a host parent, we open our home to kids from all over the globe. So far we’ve entertained students from 14 yrs old to 18 yrs old. There have been Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Germans, Norwegians, Brazilians, Hungarians, Thai’s and Hong Kong – all boys. And the number one question from nearly all of them “How do I ask a girl out?”.
Now I’m not much good with math, science or economics; but I mastered the art of talking to girls over fifty years ago. And that’s always been my advice. Before you can ask them out, you have to be able to hold a conversation with them first. It’s really that simple.
In fact answering all the questions you get thrown at you are simple and easy to resolve. Just be honest, don’t get embarrassed and if all else fails send them to your wife – Because she will know everything.
As for me, I’m just getting into gear answering questions from my four year old Grandson.
Shamus: “Why do the red fruit pastels taste like strawberries?”
Me: That’s because they have strawberries in them.
Shamus: “But why do the orange ones taste like orange?”
Me: Well that’s because they have orange in them.
Shamus: “Granddad, what flavour are the green ones?”
Me: They have broccoli in them!
Shamus: “I don’t like the green ones granddad”
Me: Don’t worry – I’ll eat those J.