“Mom, where do babies come from?” Dr. Kristie faces the tough questions.
“How do babies get out of a mommy’s tummy?” my then-4-year-old son asked over the dinner table.
I nearly dropped my fork and choked on my food.
“I mean, how do they just pop out?” he continued. “Do they come out of the mommy’s belly button?”
You’d think that as a pediatrician, I would have an answer to this question ready and waiting. I talk to children every day, on their level, on their terms. It’s my job to explain almost anything to a child in a way they can understand. Surely I could handle this one like a pro.
I am ashamed to say that I failed miserably. I blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “Honey, look at that bird out there! Did you see it fly by? Hurry, go to the window and look!” And like that, the question was gone, out of his mind as he ran to the window just a second too late to catch a glimpse of that elusive bird.
This was not my proudest parenting moment. I know I will have to face those tough questions sooner or later, and my son is full of them. In fact, the older he gets, the more complicated the questions become: “Mommy, can people get unmarried?” “Mommy, why does that little boy look and act so different?” “Mommy, why did we not get a baby sister?” “Mommy, will Nanny still be alive when I have kids?”
Why is it that our natural inclination is to avoid the tough questions? I’m the master of distraction when it comes to my own child’s deep thoughts. Part of me just wants to shield him from the realities of life. To protect him from the harsh reality of divorce, sickness, unanswered prayers, death. To keep him innocent for as long as I can. I know the day is coming when I will have to sit with him and slowly and carefully answer those big questions. But for today, there are beautiful sights to see out that window, and I don’t want him to miss a single one.