Now that my daughter is old enough to ask some hard questions I’m going to have to practise my quick-draw response technique.
Not only that, but I’m also having to develop a very thick-skinned reaction to embarrassing queries in public, issuing strict instructions that she keep her thoughts to herself when we are surrounded by non-immediate family members. Why? Read on…
Loudly at the checkout counter: “Mommy, why is that lady fat?” (I swear that we do NOT emphasise plus-size issues in our household!); and yesterday, “Mum, that man is very naked!” (we were at a supermarket near the beach and he was in fact wearing a Speedo whilst shopping for groceries… it is summer in SA after all!)
To her credit, she is now at least managing to whisper some of her conundrums breathily into my ear.
Indeed, it looks like I’m going to have to also brush up my general knowledge, what with questions like: “Why is it called the Red Sea?” Thank God for Google!
And of course, there are the more awkward moments of intimate information needing to be transmitted: “Mum, what’s that big pink thing between Fudgie’s legs?” (NOTE: Fudge is our male boxer).
At least we were within the safe confines of our own garden at the time. Although, my neighbours do look at me funny sometimes – admittedly, very possibly not because of this particular exchange, since there are potentially a dozen other reasons for them to wonder about our family!
My response to her innocent quest for insight: “A penis, sweetie.” Not for me sugar-coated euphemisms: I’m taking the straightforward, educational biology approach in order to avoid more trouble later – at least that’s what I’m telling myself now!
But I am also learning to craft my answers with some forethought given to what the follow-up question may be: “What’s a penis?”
I’ll spare you the gory details…
With her having now learned to recognise that symbols and signs mean something, I am at the constant mercy of her insatiable appetite for knowledge about the world. At any given intersection: “Mum, what does that sign say?” “It says ‘Stop’, sweetie.”
“And that one” “And that one? “And that one?”…
In the clothing store, and the bank, and the supermarket: “Mum, why is that man running in that sign?”, “It’s an emergency exit, my darling”, “What’s an emergency mum?”, “It’s when something dangerous happens and everyone has to run away quickly.”, “What is dangerous, mum?”
Certainly those within earshot – usually our fellow queuers – are kept entertained, mostly I think by my having to admit ultimate defeat and fall back on the magic words: “Just because!!!”
But it’s the more profound questions that really have me stumped.
After purchasing some treats as a gift for a family friend and handing another one to my daughter, she asks: “But mummy, where is your present?”
“It’s okay my love, I don’t need one, I have you – you are my present.”
“Who gave me to you, mum?”
“God gave you to me, my precious.” (NOTE: we are not religious, per se, rather spiritually curious)
After a momentary pause: “Mummy, who is God?”
Bring out the white flag. I give up. Any advice for me?