I am a big fan of need-to-know basis when it comes to explaining life’s grittier realities to one’s children. Conversations about heavy subject matter usually occur according to the kids’ agenda and don’t go at the pace you’ve planned in your mind – so what’s the point of making up a preset speech? Say you’re watching a film with your preschooler and you come to the part where Bambi’s mom gets nuked (or Boromir gets shot by orcs to the tune of oh, 100 arrows in the chest – depending on the cinematic choices you subject your progeny to). The child asks, “Mommy, what happened to Bambi’s mom ( / Boromir)?” and fixes her dewey eyes on you. Well, in the Kelly Hogaboom School of Parenting (TM), I simply say, “She’s (he’s) dead.” Then wait. Usually not much more, if anything, is asked. The kid processes it. The kid will ask a more pointed question later, when she’s ready – bet on it.
So I don’t generally overexplain and I don’t operate using euphamism (in tonight’s Lady and the Tramp dog Nutsy gets led off on “the long walk” at the dog pound – Sophie asked what was happening to the dog and, after struggling to find the right phrase I finally said, “He’s being euthanized” – rather than the much more confusing yet oft-used “They’re putting him to sleep”). But tonight, for the first time as a Mama, my child’s questions outstripped my ability or interest in talking about something:
So I’m on the computer – the girl and I had just got done watching LatT and I am about ten minutes away from putting her to bed. Sophie keenly spies and sntaches up a tampon (this item had been lurking in my purse since the trip down to my parents and I believe was the same specimen my 2-year old son pulled out of my pants pocket in front of my brother). Sophie is alert, bushy-tailed, laconic and direct: “What is this?” turning a searchlight beam on me. I’m catching up on email and I don’t want to explain. “It’s like a blood-pad,” I say, referring to the Sophie-moniker she assigned to my more regularly-used cloth pads (this is the first time tampons have been in the house for almost two years), and hoping that’s a good enough explanation. “Yeah, but what is it?” she asks again, brows furrowed. “What’s it called? What is it?” “It’s for blood. For Mama.” I respond in a thoroughly half-assed manner (I know I suck, but honestly, it wasn’t the subject matter – I just didn’t want to explain anything, not even what pajamas I was going to wear to bed; I was that worn out). “What is it.” she says, adopting a drone-like tone that informs me she’s prepared to keep at it for a while. Finally I say, “It’s a tampon,” fully expecting to get barraged with more questions.
But instead, lighting up as if somehow she had busted up some kind of international menstrual-secret conspiracy, she immediately yells, “TamPON!” in the most victorious fashion. Then (completely inexplicably) she belts, “You’re IT!” and pokes me. A few beats later, “It is a tam-POD!” she crows, as if I was her favorite student, she’d just handed me a pop quiz, and I’d scored well.
Good job, Mama. You passed the test.