Back Seat Conversations…

“Mama, I have a question.”  I hear that statement just about every time we are on our lengthy drive to and from school.  Sometimes I hear it 5-6 times in one trip!  I’m not sure what it is, but when we are riding in the car my children get the urge to contemplate life’s mysteries, and that inevitably leads to questions.  I have gotten everything from “What does that song mean?” to “Where did Ripley’s (our dog) body go when she died?” to “Why did God let there be diabetes?” to “How does a baby get in a Mommy’s tummy?”  to  “How did that Mommy get a baby in her tummy when she is not married?”  Yikes! 

Obviously, some questions are easier to answer than others, but I LOVE hearing these questions.  First of all, they give me a window into my children’s worlds.  I get a picture of what they are experiencing and how they are processing it.  Secondly, I get the opportunity to share not only what I know, but my values and beliefs.  I can make sure that the information they get is accurate, developmentally appropriate, and rooted in the faith that I hold dear and want them to hold dear.  Finally, I know that when my children ask these questions, they are saying they trust me and that what I have to say matters to them.  The more I am open to their questions now, the more likely they are to keep asking questions as they get older, and the more likely they are to keep listening.  I want that as much as possible, especially since I know the day will come when they think they and their friends know more than I do. 

Most of the time, I can answer my children’s questions immediately or with just a few moments of thought.  Sometimes they do manage to throw something my way that I’m not sure how to handle.  It is ok to say, “Hmmm.  That’s a good question.  I need to think about it.  Let’s chat tomorrow.”  The key is always making sure to follow through.  Also, I know that there are some things my children do not ask questions about that I need to make the effort to bring up.  Things that they have not yet encountered in life, but need to be prepared for.  I pray to God that they never have to experience someone attempting to touch them inappropriately, but I will make sure they know exactly what to do should it happen.  I have seen the repercussions of NOT doing that, and I want to spare my children that experience.  I also want to make sure that as my children grow and develop, that I take the time to prepare them for what their body is doing and will do.  Yes, I am talking about puberty and sex. 

I know some of those conversations can feel scary for a parent.  I know some parents fear that somehow they are compromising their children’s innocence by talking about such things.  The reality is that it can be pretty scary for your children to encounter things (especially things in their bodies) that they did not know to expect.  Knowledge is power.  Children with a good understanding about how their bodies work are actually more likely to make better choices about their bodies in the future.  I do not propose dumping all of the information on them all at once, but in small doses.  I actually have those conversations with each child separately, as they are 3 years apart, and have different needs.  And often, the kinds of questions I start to hear give me a good sense of what they need to know next.

So as summer approaches, I know there will be a temporary decrease in the frequency of the questions coming from the back seat.  I’m going to miss them, but I will be looking for other opportunities to listen and share.  Oh, and I know some of you are left wondering, “So HOW do I answer all of those tough questions, anyway!?”  I will make sure to cover it in another article after summer break.  Sorry to leave you hanging, but if you just can’t wait, send me an e-mail, or give me a call.  I’m always happy to answer questions.