Wednesday, May 12, 2010
On a lovely afternoon, six years ago, I found myself in the check out line at a local housewares store with my then three year old son. Only one lane was open. We were next and there were at least four people waiting behind us. As we approached the cashier, my son asked me a question that, to this day, causes me to break out in a cold sweat. "Is that a man or a woman?"
I should also mention that my son had not yet grasped the concept of the elusive "indoor voice".
I glanced at the cashier. Oh my. He? She? I desperately looked for clues. Close cropped hair, no make up, no jewelery, flannel shirt, no obvious protrusions. I did, at that point, what I'd like to believe any parent would do. I offered him a handful of goldfish crackers and a few gummy bears for good measure. The snacks were refused.
"MOMMY!! IS THAT A MAN OR A WOMAN?!?!"
Oh my God - could he BE any louder? It was suddenly very quiet in the store. The pressure was on. Think think think. What would MacGyver do? An idea came to me! I scanned the cashier's torso praying there would be a name tag and praying even harder that it would not say "Pat" or "Chris". And there it was - "Jennifer". Hallelujah!
I calmly looked at my child, sitting in the shopping cart, awaiting my answer. "Silly goose. It's a woman, of course! Her name is Jennifer - can you say 'hello' to her?" Crisis averted! I am supermom! Jennifer rang us up and we were good to go. We had barely begun to walk away when the next question came. "But how come she looks like a man?"
Sometimes, you just have to keep moving and not look back.
Kids are curious. I've seen that statement written in countless books and magazines. But they didn't really mention HOW curious. No one really tells you that, on average, pre-schoolers ask one thousand five hundred sixty-three questions per day - give or take a few hundred. And that maybe, you might have the answer to two of them - max. Also - preschoolers are not shy about where and when they hit you with these inquiries. The really tough questions seem to come at the most inopportune moments; almost always in public and in the presence of complete strangers who seem to lean in a little closer and dare you to come up with an answer. And it's not like the SATs. If you don't know, you really shouldn't attempt to guess.
If you are a person who is easily flustered and hates to be put on the spot, you may want to avoid the following places during your offspring's childhood: waiting rooms, retail stores, public transportation, and elevators. And probably church and the library.
Many of the questions that kids ask in the early days are pretty standard fare - so if you are a first time parent and your child has now formed sentences that other people can actually understand, be prepared for something like this:
1) How come that person is so fat?
2) How did the baby get in there and how will it get out?
3) What does gay mean?
4) Where is heaven and do dead people watch me poop?
5) What is that Kotex stuff?
6) Is Santa (or the Tooth Fairy or The Easter Bunny) real?
7) How come some parents don't live in the same house?
8) If you have to be married to have a baby, how come Billy's sister is having one? She's only 16!
9) Why do I have to be nice to someone if I don't like them?
10) What does *$#@ mean?
When you are caught off guard and don't have an immediate answer, it's best to go with one of these:
1) That is a very good question. How about some candy?
2) Let's look it up on the internet later.
3) Ask your father.
4) I'll tell you when you're older.
and my all time favorite:
I recently found this book in the bargain section at the book store and have found it to be quite helpful: http://www.amazon.com/Handy-Answer-Book-Kids-Parents/dp/1578591104. However, I made the mistake of not reading ALL the questions before handing it over to my 9 year old. Thanks to this book, my son knows why adults grow hair in certain places and how exactly flatulence is formed. On the other hand, two questions I don't have to worry about answering.