How do you deal with Big Questions from your children?

One of DorkyDad’s poems is called One of the Questions Coming – and it’s a lovely, funny piece where he imagines how he’ll respond on that inevitable day sometime in the future when DorkySon asks him if he ever did drugs.

We have not reached that stage of questioning quite yet, but DorkySon has hit me with a few curious toddler curveballs recently, and my parenting skills are being tested to the max. Never mind all that stuff about how to put on a nappy or burp your baby – where’s the chapter in the textbook that tells you how to answer when your son asks ‘Why don’t you have a penis, Mummy?

He doesn’t quite have the vocabulary to convey it directly, but my guess is that the two big things on DorkySon’s mind right now are the two big, essential, universal topics – sex and death.

I had a fun ten minutes the other day fielding some difficult questions. ‘Who gave me to you, Mummy? Why are you my Mummy? Why is Daddy my Daddy?

The next morning, DorkySon hopped into bed with us at about 6.30am and immediately said ‘Why don’t I have a brother and a sister? I’d really like a brother and a sister, Mummy.’ Bloody hell. I’d barely opened my bleary eyes and he’d already started!

Later that day the line of questioning changed a bit. ‘Why is Granny your Mummy, Mummy? Why doesn’t Granny live with Grandpa? Does everybody have a Mummy and Daddy? Why doesn’t Daddy have a Mummy and Daddy? Where are they? Will you still be my Mummy when I’m a big boy?

On and on it went.

They are learning about life cycles at nursery just now, and as I mentioned in a previous post, we’ve got quite a few pregnant friends, so I imagine that has prompted some of the thinking. But I’m finding it really hard. Direct questions about sex I can probably cope with when they happen (which I don’t think will be for a while yet) because I will work on the basis of explaining things as simply as possible and not overburdening him with more info than he needs to begin with.

But questions about death are harder. It’s such a vague concept, which is so difficult to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but then equally difficult in a different way if you do experience it. I hope so much that it’s a long, long time before DorkySon loses anyone close to him. But then how do I explain it to him in theoretical terms? I am starting to understand why families have hamsters and gerbils and other small furry things with fairly short life expectancies…

Anyway, we will muddle through. He is down for a nap at the moment, which has at least given me a bit of time to think about his pre-sleep parting shots, which he shouted at me as I closed the door.

Is it okay that we eat fish even though fish have faces?

I’ll tell you after you’ve had a wee sleep” I shouted back.

There was a couple of seconds of silence, and then…

Why do we need to sleep Mummy?

16 responses

  1. That’s some serious thinking he’s got going on. I don’t envy you having to deal with those questions at all!! The closest toddler gets to a question is “(postman) Pat on?” which is infinitely easier to deal with!

  2. Love this! Z hasn’t really started with those kind of questions yet and I have no idea how I will answer any them either. We are still very much at the stage where only yes or no answers are required: “can I have chocolate buttons, mummy?” “can I watch peppa pig mummy” although recently I have taken to responding with a “yes you can… if you do a poo on the potty” and “of course… if you do a poo on the potty”. Look forward to reading your answers to the ‘big’ questions (and then using them for myself :))

  3. Sounds like you are doing great fielding the onslaught of questions at the moment. I think death is the hardest one though. Sounds like Dorky Son is a little bit older than Little A, am sure we”ll have this all to come in six months time.

  4. Fabulous! My toddler recently learned to wee standing up, and is delighted with his new skill. He was so disappointed in me when I explained that I couldn’t do it too! And he was not impressed at all with my explanation that only boys have willies. Just shook his head, refusing to accept the fact. 🙂

  5. I just love this phase! Once you get over the daunting bit, I find it all relatively straightforward. GG does know all the mechanical aspects of sex, because she kept asking how babies got in and how the daddy seed joined up with the Mummy seed, so I explained it all as simply as I could. It went fine, she knows, she’s not embarrassed, and she won’t have to hear it on the playground! I find that if you just provide a simple but honest answer, they will ask you if they need to know more, but often it suffices. With death, again, I tell the truth, then tell them what different people believe about what happens when you die. So far she hasn’t asked what I believe – that would be a more difficult question to answer!

  6. Just you wait – after ‘why’ comes ‘what happens if’ – Max makes my head swirl when he asks me questions now a days. He is banned from asking me when I’m reversing or going round a roundabout, because my brain can’t handle it ;o)
    He told me the pregnancy one – apparently he’d already worked it out when he decided he wanted a sibling at 2.5yrs -> “Daddy cooks an egg and puts it in mummy’s tummy” – goodness knows how he worked that one out!

  7. Questions, questions, questions eh!! I don’t dread my daughter asking me questions about what I got up to in my yoof as I much as I dread remembering what I got up to whilst waving her off for a night out…

  8. Don’t you love the questions? Maybe not. At least you’re getting questioned – I just get told here. Toddler was adamant I had a willy and nothing I could say would persuade him otherwise.

  9. LOL A sign of intelligence, I say! But when we get into the complexities of WHAT IF Cinderella got kidnapped by the Stepmother and the Prince was asleep and there were no clues and WHAT IF the stepsister takes her place and wears a Cinderella mask and wig and GLOVES so no fingerprints and changes her voice… THEN WHAT? I am flummoxed. I don’t mind admitting it.

  10. Sadly, my cousin and his wife had to explain death to their daughter when she was not-quite-two, as our grandfather, who adored their little girl, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died a few weeks later. They told her that Great-Papa had gone to Heaven, and would be looking down on her, then took her to the window to point to the sky and tell her that that’s where Heaven is. It would all have been very moving, except that a few days later they realised that she hadn’t quite understood it as well as they had hoped, and thought that he had gone to live in their sitting room curtains.

  11. Great post. I get questions like these on an almost daily basis from my 4 and 6 year olds. What I find is that they tend to process the bits you tell them, and then ask for more information. So one week I’d get “How does the baby get into your tummy?”, then the next week the question would be “Well how does daddy put the seed there?” For some reason they always ask me these huge questions when we’re in the car. And never when hubby is around to help!
    The questions about death started when my oldest was in reception class in school. For a while he believed that people die when they were 100 years old (if only it were that easy!) and found it really hard to understand that younger people can die too. It must be very scary to learn these things.

  12. Really enjoyed this- it brought back lots of lovely memories of similarly exhausting existential explorations as my children moved through the stages of infancy, pre-puberty and on into teens (when actually, they think they know everything and start to tell you a thing or two!). When I was a parent of small children, my own recollections of how things my mum thought she’d told me got a bit twisted in my child’s mind, proved instructive and consequently made me resolve to be as clear as possible; whilst protecting ‘innocence’ I tried to avoid euphemism. Two of these bizarre infant interpretations were as follows:
    Mum: “Remember, you mustn’t talk to strange men and under no circumstances accept any sweets – they may turn out to be bad men who are naughty”.
    My interpretation: talking to ordinary looking men was OK so long as they behaved normally, and I certainly wouldn’t accept sweets because they could be poisoned. However, wrapped sweets (like, say, spangles obviously untampered with and still in their packet, or caramels in their wrappers) would be OK. Chocolate – well, I never did get to decide where I stood on that….
    Mum: Babies come from a seed in a lady’s tummy and when they love a man very much it grows into a baby
    My interpretation: OMG (actually we didn’t have ‘OMG’ in those days, it was more likely ‘flippin’ Norah!’) I REALLY love David Cassidy…. I need to keep my eyes on my tummy ‘cos I might get a baby growing in there – how on earth will I tell my mum.
    I’ll learn later – no doubt – whether I did any better when my now-grown children let me know how my attempts at answering their big questions fared in preparing them for the big bad/beautiful world!

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