WWYD – inquisitive child

I have a close friend who has an adorable 6 year old daughter who hasn’t met a question she didn’t want the answer to. This delicious bundle of energy asks questions on your answers, so you had better not be telling her porkies.

Well, school is out for the summer and she has been home chilling out at Camp Mommy. While her mother was busy with cooking dinner and doing laundry she took it upon herself to explore the house, to see if she could find some treasure. She found herself in her parents’ bedroom.

My friend is in the kitchen cooking dinner, when her daughter appears with a box of condoms in her hands. “Mommy, what are these?”

Now, my friend is of the belief that you always need to tell the truth to your kids, in an age appropriate manner. But these people are somewhat religious (and this manner of birth control is frowned upon), and to hear her daughter tell a friend the next day that mommy and daddy don’t want a baby so they use these things called condoms, and then explain the whole baby making thing – well, she didn’t want to have to deal with that and the potential fall out.

The child received a lesson in not going through other people’s stuff, but we know we all did it as kids. (Sorry Mum!!)

How would you have answered this bright and inquisitive child?

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  1. I’d tell her the truth. When my brother and I respectively were each this girl’s age, we asked our mother similar questions, and she answered completely frankly and openly. For example, if we asked her where children came from, she’d tell us exactly where they came from. Furthermore, I remember being in first grade and reading books about human anatomy, including the chapters on the reproductive system.

    Now, my mother did moralize things: for example, when we asked her about sex and reproduction, she explained it as something a mother and father did when they loved each other, and that unmarried people were not to engage in it. But the technical details she provided were completely true, and she engaged in moralization only insofar as the moralization did not hide the objective truth.

    A quotation from Rabbi S. R. Hirsch comes to mind: “It would be most perverse and criminal of us to seek to instill in our children a contempt, based on ignorance and untruth, for everything that is not specifically Jewish, for all other human arts and sciences, in the belief that by inculcating our children with such a negative attitude … we could safeguard them from contacts with the scholarly and scientific endeavors of the rest of mankind…You will then see that your simple-minded calculations were just as criminal as they were perverse. Criminal, because they enlisted the help of untruth supposedly in order to protect the truth, and because you have thus departed from the path upon which your own Sages have preceded you and beckoned you to follow them. Perverse, because by so doing you have achieved precisely the opposite of what you wanted to accomplish… Your child will consequently begin to doubt all of Judaism which (so, at least, it must seem to him from your behavior) can exist only in the night and darkness of ignorance and which must close its eyes and the minds of its adherents to the light of all knowledge if it is not to perish” (Collected Writings vol 7 pp. 415-6, quoted in Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch—Torah Leadership for Our Times, by Rabbi Dr. Yehudah (Leo) Levi).

    • ROFL. Boy am I guilty of a Freudian slip!!!

      I said, “she explained it as something a mother and father did when they loved each other.”

      What I meant to say is “she explained it as something a husband and wife did when they loved each other,” since a father and mother do not have to be married in order to biologically become parents!

      But you can see that my mother’s moralization has still stuck with me! When I try to speak of husbands and wives, I accidentally consider “mother and father ” to be interchangeable with “husband and wife”!!

  2. David says:

    Three words:

    Child Proof Locks.

  3. Yossi Ginzberg says:

    There’s an old story about the child who asked one day innocently, “Mommy, where does Poo come from?”.

    She got the long explanation of the entire nutrition/ digestion system, but had a follow-up question: “And where does Kanga come from?”.

  4. “and to hear her daughter tell a friend the next day”

    A mother and a father have a right to tell their children whatever they feel proper, and it isn’t a parent’s job to make sure that his or her child won’t tell another couple’s child something that the other couple doesn’t want their own child to know.

    The same way it isn’t Mexico’s job to protect the US’s border from illegal immigration, and the same way it isn’t the US’s job to protect Mexico from illegal importation of arms by drug dealers, it isn’t one couple’s job to protect another couple’s children. You should be able to tell your children whatever you want to, and it isn’t your job to ensure your children don’t pass the information on.

  5. Shira says:

    Sometimes you have to keep things simple.
    And yes, you need to take society into account. You live in it, the child lives in it.

    Now, had the child come with a question as to where babies come from, I think she should have been given an age appropriate answer (she doesn’t need all the info at the age, imo, but just a general idea). Never would I lie to a child about the biological birds and bees.

    But the child came with a box of weird wrappers she found in mommy’s room. And you know what, mommy deserves some privacy too. She doesn’t need to expose all her private life to her child, and certainly not to the child’s friends who will be told tomorrow, and the child’s friends’ mothers who will be told day after tomorrow. That’s just dumb.

    Mommy should have just told her adorable daughter that it was a box of medicine, or samples of hand cream, or pockets of soap. Whatever. And taken it away with no suspicious fuss.
    Yes, sometimes you’ve got to lie to save your own dignity and spare your child’s innocence.

  6. RubyV says:

    I wouldn’t lie about the contents, but she can just say “these are some of mama’s personal items” and then give the chat on privacy.

    I’ve had my child find really embarrassing personal items. It sucks, but such is parenting.

    • lady lock and load says:

      Tell the kid that it’s stuff for men and FINISHED. She is six years old!!! Not good to give her TMI.

  7. frumchika says:

    what did the mother end up answering her???

  8. Hadass Eviatar says:

    I’ll admit I would probably wimp out with “Grownup stuff that I’ll explain to you when you are older. ” What did your friend say?

    • Chanief says:

      I don’t think that’s wimping out. I am all for being honest with children, but it has to be age appropriate information.

      I’ve spoken with my kids about sex and drugs and many of those topics that can be difficult to address, but always with age level information and as they have gotten older I’ve told them more.

      If the child were an older child it would be the perfect time to introduce the concept of safe sex, but IMHO it’s far more age appropriate to tell a 6 year old child that it’s a grown up item that you’ll tell them about when it’s time for them to know.

  9. hmm it sounds like your friend did a great job! i *try* to tell the truth and only give as much info as necessary. i don;t want to make a big deal out of such things, lie to my kids *or* make sex, contraception, etc taboo for later when i’ll really want the dialogue door to be wide open! i do think 6 is a little young for much more info than what your friend gave though? really interesting post, hadassah! thanks!

  10. kisarita says:

    It all depends on whether she knows what sex is or not. From the scenario described, she doesn’t know, so this isn’t the time to tell her, since that isn’t what she’s asking about at all.

    However I don’t think a six year old is too young to learn about sex. There are even explanatory books made for kids that age.

    Addendum, probably the most important thing: sure, not going through other peoples things is a legitimate lesson, but don’t yell at her because YOU’RE uncomfortable.

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