Speaking a Different Language

On vacation, Dan told me this:

“Flora asked me what romantic meant.”
“And you said…?”
“Romantic means being alone and reading a good book.”

The first time he told me that, I laughed because I thought he was joking. But the third time he repeated it (telling various family members), something occurred to me.

“Wait a minute,” I said, “Did you really tell her that?”
“Yep. She asked me what a date was, too.”
“Did you tell her it was reading books with someone else?”

I know that my husband thinks I give my children, especially the endlessly curious Flora, too many honest answers — and he may have a point. But, really, telling her a complete fabrication seems futile.

If Flora had asked me what romantic means, I would have told her that it means a special feeling between a boy and a girl (or a man and a woman — and no, not to discriminate against homosexuals, just to keep it simple for now). And that a date is special time that two people have together to enjoy each other’s company.

Maybe another father of girls can tell me where my husband is coming from here, because I strongly suspect his fear of his “little girls” becoming women motivated his definition of romantic. What do you think?

Are you honest (and age appropriate) with your kids? Do you put them off for when they are older? Or do you just make stuff up for now?

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13 thoughts on “Speaking a Different Language

  1. I try to always be honest and age appropriate with my kids. Especially when it comes to the hard stuff like sex, romantic love, etc. I feel like they can only develop a healthy world view on these things and a personal strength and confidence about their convictions if they know the truth AND know that I will always be honest with them.

    Granted, I don’t have girls and I also don’t have a kid like Flora who is endlessly curious. But if I did, I’d be like you.

    • You mean your children don’t ask you a million-eleventy questions in the space of the car ride to school? And her little sister is starting now, too. The other day Kate asked about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer being history. *headdesk*

  2. Well this is an interesting question you brought up. There is a fine line here. I don’t think your husband dodged the question with a complete fabrication (he technically answered what she said I guess, but not what she meant), but he has to keep in mind his integrity when it comes to these answers. If your daughter’s trust gets breached, she’ll stop asking him these questions! What if (God forbid) she asked “what does heroin mean?” Would he have said “A female hero?”

    Our 7-year-old son has a female friend at school (who has teenage sisters) who told another dad my son is “sexy” and “hot”. Now what am I supposed to do with that? Fortunately when challenged, the girl didn’t know what those words meant, but kids will learn a word’s meaning way before they’ll learn its broader connotation (or as I like to say “before they learn how to unpack the baggage that comes with it”).

    So it’s our responsibility to be truthful—lest we be seen as an unreliable resource when conflicts arise between what we teach and what they learn— but not overly so. I don’t want my kids curious about too much too soon. I answer their questions, but sometimes I do say “that’s not appropriate for someone your age”.

    • Exactly to your last point. I think part of my answer to “what does romantic mean?” would be “that’s a grown-up sort of word.” A wedding is romantic, but it’s also something that’s for grown ups. Same with “date”. Context is vital.

      I do want my children to come to me with these questions, which is why I always, always try to answer them appropriately. Because what happens now when Flora tells her teacher she got all romantic with a book last night? 😉

  3. I have always taken a similar approach to yours, I think. I figured he wouldn’t be asking the question if he didn’t want to know the answer. I’m glad I got to explain so much to him when he was younger, and less conscious of which subjects are loaded. Now that he’s approaching the age when people start thinking about romantic relationships in less abstract terms, he doesn’t ask anymore.

  4. I am honest with Claire. I don’t really know what it means to be age appropriate because they either “get it” or they don’t. Claire has been on a bit of a dead people binge lately. She told me that all dead people end up at Eat ‘n Park, and really, who can argue that?

    • It seems to me the sex and death questions go hand-in-hand, and they usually start around age 5. Kids just want to make sense of their world, and I think it’s up to us to help them. I agree, too, with your point of “getting it”. Some kids are ready to integrate what we tell them into what they “know”.

  5. I too struggle with age-appropriateness. My eight-year-old know where babies exit from, but she does not know how they got there to begin with. I have told her, however, that she needs to keep the baby info to herself, as some parents have not discussed that with their kids yet.

    Recently, when my MIL went on vacation with her ex-beau (but still a friend), my kid wondered to me where they slept. I told her they probably slept in two different beds, since that is what most hotel rooms have. I told her God prefers when only married people sleep in the same bed. Her response? “Mom, I don’t think God cares where people sleep. He just wants them to get enough rest.” Hard to argue with that.

  6. I’m honest…I decided before I had kids that I would never lie to them, and I haven’t. We can’t watch a video because I said No, not because the VCR is “broken” or the store is “closed”. I hold the same to questions like this…they just want to know. I’m not sure how I’d answer what romantic is because I haven’t been asked…but I would ask as honestly and appropriately as I could.

    • I should probably do another post on this, but the things we do “lie” about are the childhood myths: Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny. I am unwavering on this because I do feel it’s a magical part of that time of their lives. Otherwise, I’m pointedly honest. I wonder what would be gained by telling a child he/she couldn’t watch tv because it’s “broken”. I’m sure parents do it, but why? so their kids like them? HA! I don’t need my kids to like me. I just need them to LISTEN to me!

  7. Interesting post! My almost-four-year old is certainly at that stage where she’s asking a million questions a day, and it keeps us on our toes. “How did the chicken get here?” in reference to a dinner one night. My answer was it lived on a farm, and then it died, and then the farmer cleaned it and took it to the grocery store for us to buy and cook and eat. I figured that was both basic enough and honest enough – it is completely dependent on the situation and how much I think she can “get” whatever I’m telling her, without freaking her out.

    Like fauxdeforet, I’d decided early on to not lie to my kids – but now I am having somewhat of a crisis as Christmas approaches. I desperately want to impart on my kids the magic of Christmas, but not being religious (like, not at all), I don’t have the actual story of Christ to relate to them. And I don’t want to emphasize the commercialism of the holiday either. For me, the wonder of Christmas is that you take a moment at the end of the year to give to others. But with two little ones in a preschool with other kids, it seems somewhat cruel to tell them that Santa isn’t real… but I still can feel the visceral let-down when I found that out myself, and how stupid I felt for “believing” in him, and how mad I was that my parents had lied to me all those years. Anyone have any tips about how they’ve handled this – redpenmama, I’d love to hear your thoughts, perhaps in a separate post!

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