Annabel has started talking. For the most part her new-found chattiness is only made up of baby talk, but she has started to spout a growing number of actual words. Even more impressive (says her proud papa) is that she consistently uses a few such as “Uh-oh” and “Bye” in the right context. This development excited me to no end until I realized that all of this talking is only going to lead to Annabel one day asking awkward questions I have no idea how to answer. Questions like:
“Did you have sex before you got married?”
“Did you drink before you turned twenty-one?”
“Have you ever broken the law?”
It’s tough to know what the right thing is to say when your kid asks you questions like these. On one hand I want to be a cool parent who has an open and honest exchange with Annabel, while on the other hand oh hell no am I telling her everything about my life before I became “Dad.” Being totally honest with Annie will only lead to her snottily saying stuff like, “I hardly think you are in a position to lecture me on that, Dad.” Wow. Just typing that is making me mad at the imaginary teen Annie. “Go to your room, imaginary teen Annie!”
The other problem with being totally honest is that Annie might not only judge me for things I did, but also things I didn’t – like date much in high school or go to many parties. Yikes. Even worse than Annie’s judging me for being too wild might be her judging me for being too dorky.
There’s no easy answer. The alternative to being honest – refusing to answer these questions – won’t lead to much open conversation, and without open conversation Annie will probably keep everything from me and never ask for advice or guidance.
Like I said, it is a tough one. At least I have time before I have to answer questions like these, and in the near future I will only have to answer easy questions like “Why is the sky blue.”
Wait a minute. Why is the sky blue?
Shop with Me Mama says:
Oh she is adorable!
Kate @ UpsideBackwards says:
It has something to do with the wavelengths of visible light.
Just remember, by the time you have a teenager, you have at least 13 years’ parenting experience. From what I know of you (which is only what I read here), you’ll be great
The sky is blue because God loves the infantry. But anyway, bro, I feel you. I have two girls (4 yrs old and 11 mos old) and I am shitting my pants thinking about the questions they might ask me when they get older. How about you pray for me and I’ll pray for you and we can email back and forth about what we tell our kids so we arent walking into this shit blind.
I remember asking my mom all kinds of awkward questions when I was younger. I always thought I would be honest with my kids when it came time that they had those questions. Then I had my daughter.
Even though my wild teen years are far behind me, when the time comes for her to know all about my younger years, I’m going to lie. Or get a PR person to put a spin on my wild days. Then when she becomes an adult, I’ll probably let her know some of the crazier things.
It’s Rayleigh scattering! The molecules in the atmosphere preferentially scatter blue light because it has a shorter wavelength than the size of the molecules. Other colors of light (like red, say) have longer wavelengths than the stuff in the atmosphere, so they go through unperturbed.
P.S. I’m a long time lurker, but questions of science are apparently enough to draw me out of the shadows.
Hahah, I am pretty sure my parents lied to me about all of these things! The only reason my dad fessed up to underage drinking is because my great-aunt ratted him out years ago. But he was also the dad that would let me have a few beers on summer vacation so it all worked out! My parents were also married super young (at 19) an thankfully raised me to not be so nuts! I didn’t fool around with boys till college and here I am, 26, childless, no marriage, and totally happy exploring my world with no major responsibilities! So it is totally reasonable to have daughters that explore their world before they have kids!
If it makes you feel better, I NEVER asked about my parent’s sex life. Oh, I knew (through the awkward conversation about how “your grandmother didn’t like me because she thought I was going to get pregnant”), but I didn’t want to. Still don’t!
As my mother says “You have the sex talk in the car. It’s perfect because the kid doesn’t have to look you in the eye.”
I still remember one time when I asked my grandma how to build an airplane. I thought this was something all grown-ups knew. When she told me she didn’t know, I thought she just didn’t want to go into it, and I was offended for a few days!
My dad bought me a book when I was little, something like “The Book of Why”. It was great because it explained things like the sky being blue, which are questions every kid asks, but most parents don’t know! It might have been this book: http://www.amazon.com/Book-Why-Martine-Laffon/dp/0810959879
I really recommend that kind of book for the science-y and everyday questions. As for the questions about your life, I have faith that you will be able to strike a balance between honesty and discretion
Haha! I just LOVED this post! I’m glad I’m not the only one who has thought about the consequences that come along with the talking… I have had the VERY same thoughts as you. One day in about 10-12yrs I am in BIG trouble!
Just thinking about the teen years and all the questions I will have to navigate makes me sweat and stutter. I guess the trick is finding the right balance of truth and lie that keeps your teen talking to you but doesn’t make it too easy for them to say “well you did it!”
That mischievous teenage Annie!
I’m with you on answering the tricky questions (not that you should have to worry about that for a loooong time!) but think you need to accept that she’s going to think you’re dorky. Really, who grew up thinking that their parents were cool?
You have to be honest!!
Of course you don’t have to go into minute detail, but if your kid is asking, there’s a reason. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I was stupid, but I did do this. I hope you’re smarter than me!” My mother would always tell us honestly about the crazy things she and her brother did because they were left unsupervised for long stretches of time, such as climbing water towers, playing in rusty junk piles, cooking their own food, etc. Honestly, the stories scared me and I never tried anything similar.
As for sex before marriage, really–we’re still worried about this in this day and age? Just tell her to be sure of the relationship and safe. I was too shy to ask and my parents didn’t volunteer, and of course I took dumb risks. So did my siblings and both of them ended up pregnant. That’s one thing you should absolutely start talking to your kids about in the preteen years and not wait for questions. And if you’re too tongue-tied, buy a book and invite discussion. This is what I’m doing with my own kids now. It’s not hard. Don’t worry–by the time your kids are old enough, you’ll feel more confident in your parenting abilities!
Haha, I never asked my parents questions like that! Probably because they didn’t pry too much into my life. They offered me anecdotes from their youth (sometimes with a moral, sometimes without) and I offered my own, both as we saw appropriate. I turned out fine, heh.
Also, statistically speaking, almost everyone has sex before they’re married. I just assumed my parents did and thought no more of it!
I don’t even have kids and those questions and decisions sound scary! But wait, why is the sky blue!??!?!
My now 31yo son gave me quite the run for my money in his teen years – ugh – thank God for Ms Clairol. My response to him was “anything you even THINK about trying, chances are I did it and will bust you so fast you won’t even have time to enjoy it” and later it was “just remember, anything you dish out to your parents will come back at you twice as hard when you have kids of your own”. Yeah, that one wasn’t too smart, seeings as he still has no kids and apparently no intention of having one.
Kristin Botello says:
Its all about answering as truthfully as possible, yet only give as much info as they can process at the age they are. I recently had to explain to my 4 and 6 year old why their godmother (whom they are very close to) does not live with their godfather anymore and what a step-mother is. It was a tough one, but I think I handled it well enough that they were satisfied with my answer.
I think you will both rock the question and answer sessions with Annie. She’s a doll!
Something to do with many layers of atmosphere. Tell her to google it.
Also……….I’m not looking forward to the question “How did you and daddy meet” Because the truth is we were both drunk, I was wearing a condom hat, it was his birthday and I spanked him in the middle of a bar!
These thoughts can keep me up at night! I also have no idea how to answer them but I’m sure my kids will ask…I know I asked my parents. My dad admitted that he sometimes drank when he was a teenager and I rememer remembering this as I decided to take my first drink at 14. It was like “well, dad did it”. But I do want an open conversation….sooo…hopefully, I’ll be able to say the right things!
I’m 30 years old, and my oldest daughter is 13. That in itself should give you a clue as to what sort of teenager I was.
I have a very open *mostly* honest relationship with my daughter. She tells me EVERYTHING, and I tell her…a little. Yes, she knows that I wasn’t perfect and I made some bad choices as a teen that we would prefer she not repeat. She knows that Daddy and I didn’t get married until she was 4 years old, and that it isn’t the ideal way to do things. I’m certainly not going to tell her about my boy-crazy, sneaking out, pot-smoking, alcohol-drinking, school-ditching, teen days. (Sheesh. I was a HORRIBLE KID.) In my defense, when I was her age my brother was in a terrible car accident that left him severely brain-damaged and paralyzed. All of a sudden my stay-at-home mom who had always been there when we came home from school spent all day, every day in the hospital with him for 2 years, and when they finally brought him home he was completely dependent on her for everything. My dad traveled constantly all over the world for business and was never home. Suddenly, no one knew what I was up to, or WHO I was with, or seemed to care. I never would have felt comfortable talking to my parents about ANYTHING, especially because I couldn’t burden them with anything more than they were already dealing with. Instead, I acted out recklessly in a pathetic attempt at getting attention and instead ended up become a parent at 17. (Which certainly did get their attention, lol.) As tough as it was, having my daughter was the absolute best thing that could have happened to me, and it woke me up to how precious life was and that I had been throwing mine away. I worked hard to finish college and be the best mom possible and married my amazing husband and best friend and we had 3 more little ones!
She does know that my hubby was a HUGE NERD as a teen though, hehe. (And he still is!
I think it’s very important to have an open relationship with your kids. Talk, talk, talk. Don’t make them feel like there’s anything they can’t share with you. Stay on top of things, pay attention, know ALL of their friends. She has a cell phone and she texts her friends but we check her phone every single day and read every single text that she gets and sends. She is only allowed at people’s houses if we know their parents and approve of the environment. Thankfully she is an awesome kid and great student.
I love it that my daughter tells us all about her life and her friends and asks us when she sees ways that other kids act that don’t seem right to her. We will always encourage her to be open and honest with us.
Also, injecting them with one of those little microchips with GPS tracking systems is helpful, too. ;-P
And…maybe someday…when she’s at least 25…I’ll share a little more about Mommy’s wild teen years. Maybe.
Don’t worry Mike, you’re a great parent already!
If you’re honest with Annie and her future questions, and keep those communication lines open, she’ll (continue) to love you for YOU. She’ll appreciate your honesty, instead of lying or sheltering her from the truth. No matter how dorky or whatever you think you are. And hey, being dorky isn’t a bad thing!
I understand the fear! My baby is 15 going on 20 and we have a very open relationship and she tells me and ask me things that I don’t really want to hear no answer. Fortunately, I still get away with, “It doesn’t matter when I did (insert awkward, awful subject here) honey…” When it gets really awkward is when I ask her “What the heck does that mean!!!!” Yes you will get to that point one day too. I figure as long as their talking to me they might hear something I have to say Enjoy the baby stage goo goo ga ga because it really does fly by but gets more and more fun by the year!!!!
If it helps at all, here is what my dad did: when I was going into high school, he sat my brother and me down and told us, in EXCRUCIATING detail, about his youthful indiscretions. We were so horrified that our Dad did these things that neither of us thought they were cool or wanted to try them ourselves anymore.
It’s hard when your kids ask you the tough questions. I operated on “honesty is the best policy” and “only answer the question that is asked.”
My daughter, now 20, knows about my wilder days (I had her at 18, after all, hard to deny in that case). But instead of giving her ammunition to use against me, I tried to show her the lesson to be learned by my own questionable choices.
I think if you answer her honestly, but temper it with good judgment, it will be fine. (And I like Kate’s dad’s method, too!)
Trust me, no teenage girl in her right mind would ever willingly contemplate the idea of her parents having sex. Neither would she believe her parents were ever young because they’re, like, so OLD, you know?
As for breaking the law, you can make up a whimsical story about getting a stern lecture from a police officer about picking wildflowers in a park where you didn’t notice the small, discreet sign warning you against it. Go into a lot of boring detail about the weather that day and the types of flowers they were. Chances are good she’ll wander away and forget about asking any more questions about your obviously dull youth in the quaint olden days.
My dad always lied to me about these things and not only pretended that he had never made a mistake in his entire life, but that anyone who DID is obviously a bad, weak person with no redeeming qualities.
As a result, I tried very hard to be the “perfect child,” and then I rebelled when I was 18 and spent the better part of 5 years in a drug-fueled haze, living in warehouses with musicians.
Only after he died (when I was 20) did I come to hear about my dad’s wild party days, all the pot he smoked in his 20s, the days in the late 70s/early 80s when he and my mom would go to coke parties (pre-me, obviously).
If he had just been honest with me–or at least, had admitted to PART of being what I see as being a normal adolescent/young adult–then I honestly think I would have had less of a desire to go insane when I hit legal age. I felt like his desire to have me sheltered from all of this stuff, and the pressure to be “perfect” like him (or else face his judgment) really effed me up!
I think this is something my dad struggled with as well. Not as much with my brother, but definitely with me (the oldest, and the only girl). I remember asking my dad when I was around 9 if he ever smoked cigarettes. He answered, “I tried it once, but it made me sick and I didn’t really like it.” Being 9 and naive, I believed him. Only about 12 years later did the truth finally come out. He had been a social smoker for 10 years!!! (before I was born)
While I felt a little dumb for being so naive, I understand why my dad did what he did. We need our parents to be our heros, and at 9 years old, finding out my dad had smoked cigarettes would have felt like the world to me. But now that I’m 21, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal. In fact, it is quite miniscule.
You’re a great dad. Whatever you decide for your family and your circumstances will be best. You should always trust in that.
I thought I was doing well until my then 15 year old daughter asked if my theory on waiting to have sex were theoretical or based on experience.
Basically I was trying to tell her that she’d have better sex if she waited since she wouldn’t have “baggage.”
I gave up all pretenses of my sainthood after that conversation.
Honesty is good.
I think the honesty in your conversations about Maddie will lead to open conversations on other topics.
Yeah, it’s for the best to keep certain things secret until she’s old enough not to use them against you. For instance, I knew that before my mom had me & my brother she had been an officer in the Navy. (One of 2 female officers on her base. Cool, right?) But I only recently learned that before joining the Navy (& meeting my dad) she dated a roadie for KISS and may have been … a little wild.
It really boils down to what you are most comfortable with, and it starts early. I always told my oldest the truth about everything, and we have a pretty open relationship now. She’s seventeen and a junior in high school. We talk quite openly about most subjects, and I don’t think she’s made any of the mistakes that I made, but she has made her own. All you can do is try to set them on the right path, and hope they stay there. Whether that’s with the real truth, or the truth as you wish it was. I have two more that are only 3 and 5, and I think I’ll handle them the same way. It’s worked so far!
Expat Mom says:
I hope to be honest with my boys. I wasn’t that wild though, so I’m not too worried about that. I freaked my parents out by asking them all sorts of embarrassing questions when I was little. I doubt my sons can phase me on that front, since I’m already expecting it, but they’ll probably come up with something else. I do think it’s important to tell them that you made mistakes. There’s nothing worse than having a “perfect” parent and feeling you can’t talk to them about anything because they NEVER did anything wrong!
You may luck out and Annie may do what my cousin Sarah did. ASK HER COUSIN. My cousin asked ME. In the middle of Max & Erma’s restaurant.
“Jess what is the difference between regular sex and safe sex?”
Yep. I had to give her the talk. I was always her go to person. The person she talked to whenever she needed anything, wanted to learn anything. So…dad…maybe you better keep an eye on the cousins.
Don’t worry. I made sure to tell Sarah I would KILL her if she ever had sex in high school, ever did drugs, or so much as thought of smoking or drinking in school. And now? She’s on a full ride scholarship to the University of Michigan. I think I did a good job.
I am just as nervous about those conversations with my three-year-old daughter – yipes!