Madeline and I have the best conversations early in the morning, on the ride to drop her off at school. And by “best,” I mean the type of conversations that are impossibly uncomfortable and have me searching for the nearest distraction exit.
The kids were definitely hit hard by Eli dying in August, and he is a topic that comes up often. And, unfortunately, death comes right along with it.
“Mommy, when I die, I can go see Eli in heaven, right?”
Yes, you can, but unfortunately it will be a very long time before that happens.
“If you die, Daddy will need to take care of me and Nick because we’re not tall enough to cook dinner.” Then she paused for a minute. “Or take baths by ourselves.” Yes, my daughter is all about the practical aspects of death. Forget, you know, the fact that she might love or miss me. It’s all about who is going to cook dinner. “And Daddy doesn’t know where my school is. Or what time I wake up. So you’ll have to tell him.”
Um, ok, but I wasn’t planning on dying any time soon, ok?
“Ok. When I die, I can go see Eli and tell him all about Maxwell, right?”
Yes, honey, you can.
And then there was this morning… Big props to Z100 radio for giving me topics to talk about with my daughter. I owe a debt of gratitude.
“Mommy, what is s-e-x?”
Um, well, it’s what people do when they love each other. They kiss, they hug, they do stuff that you can do when you’re a grown-up and married. (Thank goodness her brother wasn’t in the car, because I knew this explanation wouldn’t fly. But of course my answer prompted this reply from her…)
“Oh, so you and Mystic (no, she doesn’t call him that) do s-e-x.”
Well, honey, we’re not married.
“Yes, you are. You kiss him…”
Yes, I do, but that’s not quite the same thing.
She then looked out the window at the cemetery we were passing (perfect timing, I know), and got lost in her thoughts. Goodness knows what she was thinking, or now what stories she’s telling her “homies” at school now.
* * * * *
Last year, when Rihanna’s song S & M was popular, Nick caught some of the lyrics and asked me what s-e-x was.
“Well, it’s something that two people do when they really love and care for each other, and they’re married.”
“Um, no, not really.”
Then what is it?
“It’s a way to show affection and love for someone.”
“And, Nick, I promise to answer whatever questions you have in as much detail as I can, but I’m not really comfortable talking about this at your age.”
Luckily for me he accepted that. It prompted a conversation on Facebook later that day amongst my friends, and who has explained what how. One friend said she told her son that Rihanna was really saying “scents,” not “s-e-x.” He bought that. I was surprised she got away with it, because the lyrics are pretty clear. Another friend responded that she doesn’t let her son listen to “those types” of songs. It’s a New York pop station. It was a popular song. If he doesn’t hear the song, he’s not going to hear the word or topic anywhere else? I don’t operate by the whole keep-them-in-a-bubble approach.
While Nick (and definitely Madeline) are way too young for these topics (and I’m not quite ready this early to be answering the questions!), I don’t want to be purposely vague, or confuse them, or make them think that they can’t ask me anything and get a straight answer. My ongoing goal is to have them think they can always ask me anything and get an answer. That conversation is always possible. But somewhere in between all that, there has to be some boundaries on what they need to know at this age too. ‘Tis a fine line we’re walking on these tightropes.
At 41, I’m still waiting for my own birds-and-bees talk. I, ahem, think I have since figured it all out on my own. In the meantime, I totally wasn’t ready to be in the hot seat by my 3- and 9-year-olds. Especially the three-year-old. Those pesky grey hairs I was dying on my head last month? I think I blame her.
Will be back here tomorrow with a Friday version of Awkward and Awesome. See you then.