When Mr. Rilch and I were on our journey east last month, we took a side trip to visit friends in Maryland. “Tim” and “Jill” have two sons, ages 11 and 9. Well, Tim and Jill wanted to take Mr. Rilch and myself out to eat, but first we had to drop the older boy, “Randy”, at a friend’s house. (The younger one was at another friend’s house, but on the same street as his own.)
So on the drive over, while Randy was still in the van, the convo was as follows:
Jill: Yadda yadda yadda…the Duke lacrosse thing…
Me: Well, in a rape case, there are–
Tim: AUGGGHHHH! DON’T SAY THAT WORD!!!
Tim: I don’t want to have to explain to Randy what rape is!
So I cringed and remained silent for a few minutes. Then some other topic came up, and Mr. Rilch used another taboo word, I forget which one, which elicited another “AUGGGHHHH!” reaction from Tim, and another insistence that he didn’t want to have to explain it.
Now, I’m not letting myself off the hook on this one. IMO, my bad was that I should have been including Randy in the convo, because he was only going to be in the van for less than half an hour, while I had the whole night with the grownups. If I’d been giving my attention to him, these forbidden words wouldn’t even have come up.
But I’m still shaking my head over this “explain” business. Quite honestly, I didn’t get the impression that Randy even cared what we were talking about, and if anything got his attention, it was his dad yowling as if he’d sat on a bee. Beyond that, though, is every parent like this? You have to explain absolutely everything to your kids, and thoroughly, or else shield them from it? It reminds me of that Onion article about explaining 9/11 to your kids: all you have to do is start from about 1979, tell them what a jihad is, tell them who Reagan was…
In 1997 or whenever it was that the Monica Lewinski scandal was going on, I was working as a mother’s help. One day, I was tidying up the living room while “Mark”, the older boy, was playing with his Legos or something. The baby was napping, and the two girls were at some activity, so it was just me and Mark and the TV. Then the news at noon comes on.
Me: Okay, hold that thought; I wanna hear what they say about the President. […] Okay, carry on.
Mark: What did they say about the President?
Me: Well, he’s in trouble because he lied and said he didn’t do something, but he really did. Which is never a good idea, yanno!
Mark: What did he lie about?
Me: Well, you know when you’re married, you’re not supposed to kiss anyone but the person you’re married to. Well, he kissed a girl who worked for him, and he shouldn’t’a done that.
Mark: Oh. [goes back to playing with Legos]
See? All the explanation he needed. Now, if he’d asked me point blank, “What’s a blowjob?” then I would have said, “…Put it this way. It’s not something you’re supposed to do with someone you’re not married to.” And he probably would have accepted that, too. And then I would have warned his parents that he’d asked me that, and it was up to them how they wanted to react.
But that’s just it: I myself am not a parent. The ultimate responsibility does not lie with me. So I’m asking the parents of the SD: how do you handle these tough questions? And more to the point, what IS a tough question, in your estimation?