97.8% of being a parent is answering an endless stream of questions.
Most of them come in the form of…
“Can I have…?”
Or my favorite, “Why not?”
Sometimes there’s just a long “mom” or “dad” with a question mark at the end repeated over and over in increasing volume. Mom? Mooom? Mooooommmm??? When kids discover their voice they sometimes forget they have two legs and can get up to come find you.
Then there are the weird questions. Case in point, I was recently asked, “Mom, how does a person become a god?”
That’s what I get for letting my kid read a book at the library about Greek mythology.
While I was formulating an appropriate response to that unexpected question, the kiddo takes my phone, googles it and says, “Mom, this might be dangerous…but, I’m going to need some whiskey.”
That right there. Prime example of
what happens when your kids learn to read why kids need supervision.
Don’t worry. I have it under control. More or less. If anyone’s going to be drinking whiskey around here, it’s going to be me.
Then there are the questions that feel like a punch in the gut because you realize your kids are growing out of that childhood bubble of innocence. And it happens too soon.
The most recent one after my kids heard about the wildfires in California was, “Mom? Do bad things happen to everyone?”
How do you answer that?
Particularly since kids always ask these questions at really bad times when you can’t sit down and dive into the topic.
If you’re like me, you punt the question until you can:
1) Get more information about what the child is really asking.
2) Find an appropriate time to talk about it.
The trite answer is not reassuring. Yep. Bad things, in varying degrees, happen to everyone. Life is unfair. People are mean. The world is full of suffering. Wrong time, wrong place. Bad luck. Bad choices.
I didn’t give my kids that trite answer because, well, it’s more nuanced than that, isn’t it?
What I ended up telling them was that life is full of contradictions.
The bad times can make us appreciate the good times.
Where there is injustice, there are people fighting for justice.
Where there is ignorance, there are people educating others.
Where there is suffering, there are people trying to ease the pain.
Where there is disaster, there are people rushing to help.
Bad things might happen, but my kids can be one of those helpers.
And if something bad happens to them, they can be open to receiving help. That’s equally important.
I told my kids that living life scared of bad things happening means that we miss out on all the amazing things in life.
Thankfully, by most standards, nothing “too” bad has happened to my kids, so I grasped for a way to connect this abstract idea to something relatable in their lives. I asked them, “What if you were so scared of getting hurt that you never played on a playground?” How would that make you feel?
Of course they declared that example to be an epic tragedy.
Then we talked about something they’ve experienced a lot – moving, which to some people can seem like a bad thing. Moving makes my kids sad to leave their friends behind. It’s a raw feeling – even as a kid – to miss your friends, your routine, all your special places. But each place we’ve moved, they’ve made new friends they can’t imagine not having now. If we hadn’t moved, they wouldn’t have met those people.
I’m trying to teach them that in a cloud they can look for a ray of sunshine. That’s how I’ve coped and navigated through the darkest moments in my life, so I hope that advice helps them too.
I told my kids we can’t always control what happens, but we can choose our response. We can do our best to be good stewards of our bodies and the earth. We can be mindful of how our actions affect others. We can enjoy the moment we are in. We can work hard and give every task our best effort. We can take responsibility for our actions. We can choose to not waste time sweating the small stuff.
At this point in the conversation, I was feeling pretty good about my mom skills. We were tackling tough topics and diving deep into the weeds. I was thinking maybe we would end this philosophical discussion with a group hug. Maybe we could sing Kumbaya around a campfire.
Instead, we came full circle with yet another series of burning questions.
“Mom, is it time for dinner?”
“What day is it today?”
“Do I have to go to school tomorrow?”
So…that’s a hard ‘no’ on the Kumbaya?
Fine. Back to reality it is.
On the plus side, I’m happy to see I didn’t scar them for life with my response to that big, philosophical question. It was iffy there for a second, so I’ll celebrate that ray of sunshine.
Between us, I’ll admit life experience has taught me that most of what I’ve told my kids is easier said than done.
They will discover that truth in time, but right now, in this moment, I’m thankful that all they really need to know is that yes, there is school tomorrow. No, dinner is not ready. And most important, no matter what bad things come their way, I love them with every fiber of my being.
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I hope it wasn’t too much of a downer. How about a laugh? It’s the least I can do…
Or a recipe? Because I did mention whiskey earlier…
Or a sweet thing to collect when traveling?