Any parent who has a young child full of questions spends a great deal of time waiting for “that” question.
The exact definition of what “that” question is varies from one parent to another. It really doesn’t matter. You know what I mean. You’re not really sure if you want your child to ask “that” question. You think you’ve rehearsed a pretty good answer. But what if it’s not right? What if there’s a follow-up question? What if the answer isn’t satisfactory? What if it’s taken the wrong way?
The best a parent can do is to rehearse the answer over and over again until it becomes second nature. Don’t panic. Don’t draw too much attention to the question. Answer it casually. Answer it coolly. Perhaps a one-off sentence will suffice. This time. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Who knows?
But you’ve got to be ready.
We were driving home tonight when my nine-year-old son — completely out of the blue — said, “Dad, I want to ask you a very important question.”
Uh, oh. This is it. He’s going to ask “that” question. Okay. Get ready for this. What did I promise myself I’d do? Oh, yeah. Don’t over-react. Casual. But make sure I appear to be genuinely concerned. After all, it was important enough for him to ask. I have to demonstrate that I’m actually paying attention. But not too much.
I turned off the radio. That’s my universal signal to him that even though I have to keep my eyes on the road, he has my undivided attention.
“Okay, son, what’s your ‘important’ question?” Here it comes. Grip the steering wheel. Eyes straight ahead. Don’t over-react.
“Which would you rather eat: poison ivy? or a mosquito?
“Uh, a mosquito, I guess. It’d be a lot smaller. In fact, it’d probably be so small you’d hardly even notice it.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Besides, I wouldn’t want to get poison ivy all down my throat because I wouldn’t be able to scratch down there.”
“That’s a good point.”
“But sometimes mosquitoes carry diseases.”
“Well, sometimes they do, but not very often. The chances that the mosquito that you would eat would be carrying a disease would be pretty small.”
“That’s true. Mom said that she’d rather eat a mosquito, too.”
“That’s nice.” Whew, at least I agreed with his mother. That was a relief.
Okay, it wasn’t “that” question. I’m still waiting for that one. But I guess I cleared up the whole mosquito/poison ivy problem that had been vexing him for some time.
On the way home, we bought some ice cream. I doubt that he ever really understood why.