As any parent knows, kids come with a lot of questions. As my kids are getting older their questions are getting more and more difficult to answer. This is not because they are asking questions I can not answer, but rather they are asking lots of questions I’m not sure I want to answer.
One of the early questions that presented such a dilemma was: ‘How are babies born?’ Once my son was old enough not to be distracted from such inquiries with a toy car or something to munch on and when he was no longer satisfied with my explanations of how a stork carries babies in blankets I decided to just break it down and tell him all about the birds and the bees. From the look on his face during my detailed explanation it seemed that he was not really ready for this information but I plowed through it anyway. Occasionally he’ll explain enough to his sister about it for me to know that he pretty much forgot everything I told him or just willfully ignored it. Although he doesn’t seem to retain much of the knowledge I gave him, this method was effective in stopping him from asking me about it anymore. I think I frightened him. Probably not such a bad thing, but we may have to deal with it down the road. This is not the only disturbing question bubbling up from the budding consciousness of my children, there are other equally challenging inquiries.
Another question for me that exemplifies the problems I face as the keeper of knowledge is a question such as, ‘What is global warming?’ This might seem more benign on the surface but presents a lot of challenges in answering honestly to young children. Do I really want them to understand global warming and all its implications? On the one hand I do because I want them to be aware of their world and mindful of their place in it. I want them to be able to able to work on problems and help to solve them. They are the future caretakers of this world after all and it is important that they understand the various challenges we have to deal with as a human race. But on the other hand global warming is a problem that is largely out of their control as of the moment. They are not in much of a position to make a big dent in their carbon footprint and I kind of don’t want them staying up late in bed worrying about melting glaciers and rising seas in Bangladesh. Although these are worthy causes to stand up for, do I really want my young children living with the weight of the world on their shoulders? A lot of kids tend to take that kind of thing very seriously.
As much as I want my kids to be enlightened souls and good citizens of the world, I realized the day I became a parent that all I really want for them is to be happy. So when they ask me why they should always turn off their electronic toys when they are not using them I wonder whether I should tell them all about the chemical and electronic waste created whenever they choose to use batteries at all. When they ask me why they can’t play in the shower for just five more minutes I hesitate in telling them about the chronic water shortages in Sub-Sahara Africa. I realize that there is a fine line and I don’t want my kids to be completely carefree ignoramuses who can’t see the impact they have on the world, but isn’t that why I’m planning to send them to college? I guess I also feel if I bog them down with all the world’s ills then there is the danger they will grow up to be brooding, depressive adults who are paralyzed and overwhelmed by the enormity of the action that must be taken. I know people like this. No, many times I’d rather err on the side of blissful ignorance and dodge those difficult questions like the skilled politicians we see so much of these days. They’re still kids after all, they have plenty of time to grow up… right?