At times I look to role models to try to figure out how he or she would answer a question from their child, but as my son has grown up more I find there are likely fewer of these folks who would likely get the kind of questions I seem to get.
For instance, and I cannot and will not go into specifics, but about a year ago my son asked what a specific phrase/active verb phrase meant. I was a bit taken aback. Holy crap was the phrase that initially came to mind. I knew where he had heard the phrase, as while his video games have headsets for communicating in group gaming scenarios, the audio of the others still comes through the television.
I instantly shot back to when I was his age and calmly, matter-of-factly asked my father what a prostitute was. After his explanation I remember simply responding “oh, a hooker.” Another time I asked him what a prophylactic was, and of course said after his discussion “oh, a condom.” It was only now that I truly saw the shocked look on his face at my responses. (We watched the show Soap as kids.)
Taking the que from my father all those years ago I answered the question with a specific description, using appropriate, accurate terminology, to ensure that the answer was as complete as his “age-modified-to-reflect-digital-inflation” would support.
Now, some of you probably have an inkling of what this discussion was about, but without giving too much away let me give a little context. I was a freshman in college when I first heard this phrase, and not one to have lived a sheltered life I still had to get a slang and euphemism dictionary to learn what this meant (pre-urban dictionary times). After reading the description my face contorted into that position usually reserved for, these days, the photo clips at the end of the Hangover movies.
While obviously the shock of being asked such a question by one of his newly double digit biological age at the time of questioning was severe, it was after the discussion ended that I was more alarmed. Any one who is the parent of, or has been around parents of, or interact with parents of offspring between the ages of 2 and 37 know, almost every single explanation, request or question is followed immediately by the word why.
What is most significant about this particular discussion was that there was no “why?” forthcoming. This was a good thing, because despite being able to describe the verb phrase he was asking about, no amount of explanation has ever been able to allow me to understand WHY this is something that some do. But at the same time, my decade-old son didn’t see the need to ask why. Apparently to a 10 year old boy this makes utterly perfect sense. I have told this story to others I know, including several adult males who are the parents of sons younger than my own. They gasp at the horror, and of course quickly calculate how many years they are away from that very conversation with their own sons. They laugh, are stunned, rather frightened. I then mention the second part, about the absence of the why, and they giggle.
Apparently it’s not just to 10-year-old boys … males of all ages seem to think that this behavior is self-explanatory. That’s a bit disturbing, yet confirms the maturity level of males overall … it stops at ‘tween. Sure explains the whole Beevis and Butthead phenomenon. Heh.
Just this past weekend I was in the car with my son. He was watching videos on his phone in the car and nonchalantly said, “Oh, by the way, what does [same verb phrase from the year before] mean again?” Again I was taken off guard. I thought back to remember what phrasing I had previously used, and then decided screw it, and told him in the phrases he knew, the phrases and words he’s heard through his video games and middle school friends (at least maybe I’ll come across as the open, hip mom).
This time the discussion took as long as 2 sentences to deliver. “Oh, right, ok,” was all he said before turning back to his videos. “Wait, can it also be done [different phrasing of verb phrase activity]?” he asked looking over at me. “Yes, those phrases mean basically the same thing,” I calmly answers. “Oh, ok.” Again, never even an inclination that a WHY would be necessary to explain why this would be considered a fun thing.
But at the end of the day my son asked me something and I answered him directly. Putting aside the shock and denial of his maturing and exposure to more information, and instead being true to who I am, my son feels comfortable asking me these things, and can rely on me giving him the answers. That’s more important than the absence of why.