“Mommy,” Thalia asked, approaching the couch, “I need to ask you a question.”
She seemed uncharacteristically serious. Nervous even. Thalia is a girl rarely without a smile on her face, a wiggly dance move in her legs. I sat up straight and looked her in the eyes so she’d know I respected her question.
“Of course, honey. “
“Well,” she said, shuffling side to side, “It’s kind of a weird question. It’s weird.”
Weird is code for uncomfortable.
“Can I…can I ask you anyway?”
Oh no, I thought, bracing myself for something overheard at school about bodies or pregnancy or kissing boys. Oh no no no no no. She’s not even six. I’m so not ready for this stage.
I love that my daughter asks questions. I love that she’s a critical thinker who processes her world in thoughtful ways, and wants to understand the how and why behind the what. But it’s scary to think about those questions that stem from dubious sources in her classroom, about alligators in the sewers or Bubble Yum filled with spider eggs or whatever rumors are being spread by the prepubescent set in this particular century. No doubt Hannah Montana is involved. As are the words internet and naked.
That said, I’m less worried about embarrassing questions or silly urban myths, and more concerned about values-based questions which, with the wrong answer, pits us versus them.
I’m anxiously waiting for the day that Thalia skips home from school to inform me that Obama is bad, or that fat people are ugly. Or heck, she could one day ask whether it’s true that good people go to church, or that mommies are supposed to stay home with the kids. Fortunately we live in Liberal York City where our progressive values are the norm, but still. Sage has already asked me whether it’s true that people need to be good to live forever (oy). It’s hard to continue to say “here’s what we think, though other people think something else,” without making our perspective seem more right than the other. Of course, yes, we want our girls to believe a lot of what we believe. But we also want them to believe it because they’ve thought it through and it makes sense to them. Not just because we’ve told them it’s so.
With the exception of a lifetime loyalty to the Washington Redskins, which, from Nate’s perspective, is entirely non-neogotiable.
(Jayzus people, do you know how hard it is to talk about racial sensitivity when your home is covered with stuff that says RED SKINS on it?)
|It’s a Shirley Temple. Shut up.|
I suppose all I can do is what I’m doing now–let my kids know what we believe, answer their questions as honestly as I can, and let them know that they can always talk to me about any subject at all. Even race (which I’m now much better at, thanks to all of you.) Even sexy toothpicks. My hope is that this open dialog thing can keep on keeping on, even and especially when my girls are slamming doors shut, and wailing through mascara’d lashes that they hate me.
I hear that’s about 10 these days. Maybe 11 if you live in the suburbs.
“You can always ask me anything Thalia,” I said, looking my beautiful, confident, growing-up-so-fast 5.5 year-old in the eye so she knew I took her seriously. “Anything. So tell me. What is it?”
“Well,” she said, holding her breath for a moment then shifting from her right leg to her left. “Hailey said…Hailey said…”
“Hailey said that if you stare at something long enough, your eyes will change color. Is that true?”
It was hard not to smile.