Monday, January 10, 2011

Oh, How I Hate those Uncomfortable Questions.

My mother blamed television. She was convinced that all of the mature subjects I broached were because I had seen or heard something on TV.  I believed her for awhile, because most of Nate's questions came after hearing something on television.

About six months ago we cut our cable. We are not anti-TV, I love watching television shows when I have time, and I think that it can even be a valuable parenting tool.  If you are discriminating about what you let your kids watch they can learn, and you can get the dishes done at the same time.  We cut the cable because it was too expensive and with Hulu and Netflix we just weren't watching live TV  that often.

But I digress...the point is that we got rid of live television and we were fairly picky about what we let the kids watch. Let me tell you, the questions didn't stop.

My philosophy on these questions is to answer them in a truthful but basic and age-appropriate way.  For example, the first time Nate asked what sex was the answer was "How babies are made", he said "Oh" and that was that.  He was four and didn't need an in-depth discussion about the mechanics involved, the most simple answer was the best.

Yesterday Nate asked what a condom was.  I was totally taken aback and answered with words that could have been coming straight out of my own mother's mouth "I'll tell you when you're older".  (Mom, if you're reading this I'm still waiting to learn what a prostitute is...) I immediately realized that this wasn't the right way to respond and told him "It's something that can be used to prevent disease".  He then asked if it "Was a sex thing", I answered yes and that was that.


Uncomfortable questions aren't just on the subject of sex either.  Kit recently asked why I was fat, and Nate wanted to know about the recent shooting in Arizona and why they took the N-word out of a recent printing of Huckleberry Finn.   I try to apply the same "Simple but truthful answers" philosophy regardless of the question.  I told Kit I was fat because I needed to be more active.  Nate was told that the shooter in Arizona was an angry man who was probably dealing with mental illness, and that the N-word was taken out because it is offensive.  He had more questions about that and it lead to a discussion about historical context and whether it should be sanitized for modern readers.  We also talked about how, even though the N-word was included, Huckleberry Finn was one of the first works to have a black character that was shown to be a good, loving person and not just a commodity.

What are some of the uncomfortable questions you have dealt with lately?  How did you answer?  Do you find that television makes it worse or opens up the door for communication?  Let me know in the comments.


  1. We find it's more about older friends than TV in terms of influences.

    Awkward questions are less a problem than awkward statements - like the time he saw a black woman with dreadlocks and said "there's a HUNTER". that was tough.

  2. Here's one for ya! We drove by some abortion protesters one day and D asked what an abortion was! Thanks, ladies!

  3. @wolfandfinch We have that issue as well. Friday nights around our house get notoriously boisterous and while we're pretty liberal with what we tolerate we do find ourselves reminding people that little ears are listening. This was especially hard pre-Christmas with grownups talking about Santa.

    @leah Yikes! What did you say to *that*?

  4. @sharon

    Totally, although I haven't figured out where he could have heard anything remotely like that one. Or the other time he said we should find a gardener and call him "Mexico". Seriously? That's not even a common stereotype in Canada!

  5. I shouldn't find that funny, but just this morning Kit picked up her "amibiguously ethnic" Barbie and said "she speaks Spanish" and started babbling incoherently. WHAT?

  6. I told him it had to do with having babies and changed the subject! Lame!


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