"Why can't I have this tootsie roll instead of your stupid soup that tastes like poop?"
My kids ask me some pretty wild stuff:
"Where does Bigfoot ride ferris wheels?"
"Why doesn't our house have a McDonald's in it?"
"Is it true that ghosts don't poop?"
That's the sensational part of being a parent. Their tiny minds start wiring themselves together under your distant guidance and before you know it, your own flesh and blood children are asking you about things you never dreamed they would ask you. It's hard to look at a newborn infant and picture the day when they will ask you, "Daddy, what would happen if I climbed up a rainbow and peed on the forest?" But those days do come. And life is all the better because of it.
Still, kids will also surprise you at times with certain questions that not only blow your own mind, but that also deserve some kind of answer in return. It's easy to laugh off a toddler on a sugar-high asking you zany sh*t. But there are a lot of times when kids sucker-punch you with unexpected insight and inquisition. I love when that happens. But it helps to be ready for it too.
So, being the world-renowned parenting guru that I am (not), I thought it might be cool for me to come up with a handy little list for moms and dads about some off-the-cuff questions your kids might ask that deserve answers. (Even if sometimes you almost drive off the road hearing the words that come out of your 4-year-old's mouth.)
1. Who is God?
Let's start with the biggest question of 'em all (except 'What are boobies made of?'), shall we? God. Jesus. Buddha. Muhammad. The list of who we choose to worship in this world is pretty long. And whether you choose one over another or choose none at all, being ready to talk to your children about all things religion is a pretty cool thing. Me, I'm not much of a follower, but I have my beliefs. I believe in the power of the universe. I don't even know what that means, but I believe it and it makes me feel good!
Kids are incredibly curious creatures so when they ask us about a higher power, we should be able to answer them in a way that makes us feel comfortable. It's my own personal opinion that most kids probably don't need too much doctrine or dogma when they're still young, but regardless of how you answer such a monumental question, I suspect it's nice to be prepared.
When I talk to my kids about God, I start with a little bit of cushioned honesty. I tell them I don't know much about God other than what I've heard from other people. I also tell them that lots of people believe in God, while lots of other people don't. Then I express to them that I think it's OK to think whatever you want because the things that God wants people to know, like 'be nice to each other' and 'don't hurt people' and 'clean up your room when your daddy tells you to', are things that are good to practice no matter what. They're not just God things; they're people things, too!
Then, as we're crusing down the road heading to the new gas station with the do-it-yourself milkshake machine, I point out the sky and the trees and the cornfields and the birds and maybe a deer if we see one, and I say, "You see that? As far as I know, if God is around, he's right there and there and there, inside that cloud, over in that oak tree, and back behind those stalks of corn."
No matter who you are or what your belief system is, that's not a bad way to put it to kids, now is it?
2. Is Pop-Pop in heaven now?
Ugh, the humanity. Talking to kids about death just seems so discombobulated. Fresh young eyes and faces, they're a million miles away from the next chapter in our never-ending pass through this universe, but still. Death doesn't care. Death is an assh*le when it comes to kids. He just shows up whenever he wants, no matter how old a child is, so of course they're going to have big questions about what the hell is going on when a grandparent or a dog—or God forbid—a parent is no longer around and everyone is crying and stuff seems 'off'.
And once again, there's no magic answer. It's all a matter of how you want to tell the tale. (And what you believe, too ... of course.) Here's what my ex-wife and I said when our dog died this year. It works for people and gerbils and goldfish, too:
"Yes, Max is gone from our world now but he's still here in so many ways. He lives on by just crossing our minds. That's a different kind of life than what we know, of course, because we're still here breathing oxygen and walking around this house, but Max gets to live a whole different kind of life now. He gets to be a part of our memories and our stories about him and whenever we look at pictures of him, he gets to experience that too, even if we can't see him. Plus, check this out! Max is now part of the wind and the mountains and the woods that he used to love so much when he was just a dog. Now he's like a super dog who can leap from star to star and bounce moons around and even sprinkle sunshine down on us when we're not looking!"
Maybe there are better ways to answer the heaven question. Heck, I'm sure there are. But that's mine and I dig it and they dig it and when I bust it out, heaven is a place on Earth.
3. Why can't I have this tootsie roll instead of your stupid soup that tastes like poop?
Being a parent is hard enough day in and day out, so I think there are times when these kids of ours deserve answers to their hard-earned questions that aren't necesarily scientifically-based. One thing that drives me nuts is my kids' wishy-washy palettes and their unpredictable appetites. (Sidenote: No, I'm not the dad who started them out young eating all the right things! F*ck that dad. To hell with those people whose sole purpose in life is to make certain that their kids are all dining on Bizzare Foods by the time they're 2. I don't have time for that noise. I'll jam playdoh in their pie hole if it'll keep 'em live another 6 hours.)
So, whenever my kids start asking me why they can't eat candy, or Taco Bell or why I feed them horrible sewage like pasta with butter sauce or fish sticks and peas, this is my typical answer:
"Guys, look. I get it. You want chicken nuggets because they taste good and they come with a toy from Old McDonald's (that's what my kids call it), but the reason I don't let you have chicken nuggets and fruit pie all the time isn't because I'm trying to be mean. The answer is actually a lot weirder than that.
"Ten years ago, before you guys were born, I knew a kid named Larry. Larry had a good smile and big ears and he liked soccer and crayons. But the thing is, Larry's dad always let Larry have chicken nuggets and fruit pie and ice cream cake and whipped cream straight out of the can—for every single meal! And Larry was so into it. He loved his dad so much for letting him eat nothing but junk food whenever it was time to eat.
"But you're not going to believe what happened.
"One day, Larry was sitting outside at the picnic table eating a a whole cheeseburger-stuffed-crust-pizza when, all of the sudden, as he walked over to the fridge to get some soda, he exploded all over the kitchen like a firecracker. It turned out that Larry's guts had caught on fire because there were no cool foods in his belly to freeze the sparks that erupt in your belly whenever we eat bad food. See, there's cool foods and bad foods. Cool foods, like broccoli and noodles and salad and soup, don't taste as great but they cool us down inside and keep us from exploding. But Larry didn't have any cool foods inside him, he only had bad foods that started fires in his belly.
"So he exploded. And now he's in Heaven. So eat what I give you and do what I say."
That kind of answer always works.
Good luck. And you're welcome.