Boo to Taboo?

We all know how hard it is to explain certain things to little children. War, cancer, divorce…  Ideally, we should wait with bridging those issues until the right age. But since we don’t have a full control over when our kids see and hear things, they  tend to ask before they are ready to understand our answer.  Even more, they ask before we have our answer ready. We have to say something though. Something simplified. But what?

I still remember my own “difficult” questions. Once I was watching news with my grandpa and I heard the word rape. Of course I asked what it meant. My poor grandpa tried hard to be as simplistic as accurate, but all I gathered from it was that it was some kind of forced surgery. I felt so well-informed that I gladly shared my knowledge with my girlfriends.

Now that I am the one to give answers to my children, I see how hard it is to find the right words.  When my husband’s grandfather passed away, our older son challenged us with lots of questions about death. Whatever we tried to say seemed to come across wrong and scary. In my son’s eyes, if one person can stop living NOW, everyone else can stop living NOW, including us. Even if we promised him to live until a 100, it wasn’t making him feel any better. 100 years is too abstract to grasp for a five-year old. As a result, we avoid talking about death in our house altogether and I can’t even mention that flowers in the vase died. I threw them away because they were no longer pretty.

Another word that has recently turned out taboo was, surprise, surprise, college. We mentioned it when our son wanted to have his room painted red. We  told him he could do it in college, when he would live by himself. What was supposed to be a thing to look forward to for our self-minded and independent boy turned out to be a serious threat. All he heard was that at some point he wouldn’t live with us anymore and why wouldn’t he?! Now he doesn’t even want to be a sport footwear designer anymore because he doesn’t want to go to college, because he doesn’t want to live by himself.

He still has 13 years to change his mind so I don’t worry about his education, but I do wonder what other words are going to disappear from our current conversations.  Divorce is one, for example. The other day my son pondered about our divorced neighbors, “Where is Sofia’s mom?”, I explained matter-of-factly that sometimes parents don’t get along and start living separately. I thought I handled it pretty well, until my son asked if me and his dad were going to live apart too. Obviously, planting a seed of doubt about the future of our family was not my goal.  Neither do I want to paint a perfect picture of the world, without death, homeless people and colleges. It’s misleading. But so is Santa Claus. What do I do? What do YOU do?




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