Life is Complicated!
One day you are looking at your gorgeous brand-new baby. Feeding them, bathing them and trying too hard to guess what they are thinking and feeling because they can’t articulate it themselves. Learning which cry means they are hungry and which cry means they are tired. When you are sleep deprived and haven’t showered for days, you can’t even envision a day when they will be independent.
Then before you know it, they start to grow up. They are off to school and mixing with their friends and have this whole other part of their life that you are not really a part of. They used to jump in the car and want to tell you all about their day, and that starts to happen less as they become conscious that some things are just between their social group.
My mum was always very open with me and committed early on in my life that she would always tell me the truth as age appropriately as possible. She wasn’t going to lie to me just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. This is a policy I have adopted with my own child. I am learning that it’s much more complicated than it sounds. There are times I have been shocked by the questions that have come my way, and I think all the time, that she is either smarter than I was at that age and/or that kids are just exposed to more than we were much earlier.
I know parents usually dread the question about sex and puberty, but I swear it is getting so much more complicated than that. Sometimes I long for the “where do babies come from” enquiry.
Among the questions that I have had to answer just this month was this doozie!
“Hey, Mum. Everyone on Tik Tok is talking about George Floyd? Who is he and what’s that about?”
Do you explain to a 9-year-old the complex issues underlying that question? Do you talk about structural racism and the history of brutality? Do you explain slavery and the 13th amendment? How do you explain that even though one of her favourite relatives is a police officer and a great one, that not everyone wearing a uniform always does the right thing? How do you do that, while at the same time explaining that if you are ever lost or in trouble, it’s safe to go up to a police officer?
Or this one… “Hey, Mum. I don’t think I ever want to have kids. I don’t even really want a boyfriend.”
That’s OK sweetheart; you can do whatever you like. Being careful not to say things like, well I want to be a grandmother someday, or you might change your mind. What if she is unable to have kids for some reason? What if she doesn’t want to and she feels like something I said when she was nine makes her feel pressured into making a life-changing decision? And then… “Hey, Mum, what happens when someone dies?”
My mum was always very careful to give me all the information and let me make up my own mind. I don’t believe that anything happens, but do I say that to my baby girl when we have lost several relatives over the past few years – that we just go nowhere? Do I say, well some people believe you go to heaven? Do I make up something about them being in the moon or the stars until we can have a more detailed conversation?
“Hey Mum……” (dread falls over the room).
“What’s for dinner?”
Phew! “Spaghetti Bolognaise honey.” Maybe I will think of better answers tomorrow.