Awkward questions – Guest post from Jayne

Questions - Day 54 (23/2/08)

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I absolutely love kids who are inquisitive. I get such a kick out of answering their questions, imparting what little knowledge I have. But sometimes those questions are just unanswerable. Or, I should say, unanswerable without crossing some serious boundaries.

When it’s your own kids, it’s a bit easier, you know how far to go, you know how much you want them to know. But when it’s someone elses kid, it’s a whole different ball game.

About a year ago, my Husband had his cousins over for dinner. There’s a 16 year age gap between his mum and his aunt, so his cousins were all still in primary school at this point. The youngest, who’s the boldest of them all, was stroking our dog who is an (unneutered) English Bull Terrier cross, and proceeded to point at his, ahem, penis and ask “What’s that heavy thing under there?!”

Now, I think I get why she said “heavy thing”, I mean they do kind of hang, don’t they (how did this end up being about the anatomy of a dogs genitals?!)…but why did she have to ask ME?!

I kind of got away with it by saying “That’s where Chuck does his wee-wees from”.

I think in future my answer will be “Ask your Mother”.

The trouble is, my daughter is two and a bit, which means I have all these awkward questions still to come, and when someone tells her to ask her mother, that person is ME.

Oh crap.


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  • Morag Gaherty

    NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! Please don’t tell them to ask their mother! Obviously, you need to talk with their parents to understand what kind of communication they have with their children, and how they would like you to answer awkward questions in future. But referral to a third party is a fob off, and they know that.

    Some parents limit communication with their children to the issuing of instructions. Me, I think that’s a rubbish form of communication – which implies a two way street. I asked a friend if she communicated with her children. She said “Of course. I tell them to come to the table for tea.” Rigghhhhht. It worried me that she thought this was communication, to be honest.

    When my boys (now 10 and nearly 12) were younger, I would generally answer awkward questions with a question such as “What do YOU think it is …?” and start the conversation that way. I was very proud of the fact that they were the only children in the playground (and boys as well) who understood what a woman’s period was, and why it worked that way.

    The important thing is not to have emotions bound up with communication, which is easier for some people than for others. Now, before the teenage hormones kick in, is the best time to be fielding awkward questions, I promise you!

  • Sarah Arrow

    I just answer or ask for clarification. I have heard stories of parents who have gone into detailed explanations of something only to find the child had used the wrong word… and they were now embarrassed that they hadn’t asked why themselves, first!

    With my own kids, I answer them and then I show them how to check the answers. The eldest is rather lazy and wont check things so now I have taken to telling her fairy stories and half truths so she checks things herself :)

  • Morag Gaherty

    I’ve heard of that too! I remember a comedian once saying you had to check exactly what the child was asking, and gave as an example the question “Where do I come from, Mummy?” Mummy proceeded to give a detailed explanation about the sperm and the egg. At the end, her son said “Oh. My friend comes from Coventry.”

  • Rosie O’Hara

    I go for “what do you think it is?”, as now a Granny, previously a Mum and also a teacher for a short period time I find that question works well, you do cut out the long explanations, as it might just be the “Coventry” answer. I’m also happy to answer my step-grandchildren’s questions most of which over the past year centre around as asked by the youngest granddaughter (then 5) “Rosie what’s this thing?” as she held my breast form aloft and then put it on her head – so we had a chat. Several months later she was able to explain breast froms and why I had no left boob to her older sister (then 7). This resulted in a conversation at the breakfast table when their Mum siad “oh thank God I didn’t know what to say to them!”
    Had this been my mother when we were younger it would have been whisked away and we would have been convinced we hadn’t seen anything. This did not work as we later, when the grown ups were downstairs explored the wardrobe and the drawers and came to our conclusion about contraception in the1950s!

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