Disclosure: I am a #TalkEarly ambassador. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
“Why do the clouds on one side of the sky look different than the other?”
“Why does my elf come on December 3rd?”
“How are rainbows made?”
“Why do Mamis drink alcohol?”
These are some of the questions I’ve gotten, like, since this morning. I have given my child a “questions” notebook but she never seems to have it on-hand. I am from the “because I said so” generation so, the concept of framing responses is new to me. And, it’s exhausting, y’all!
We have had late nights around her feelings and her thoughts and processing questions and responses. On nights like those, I message my girlfriends and profess the melting of my body into the couch or bed a fact.
I don’t think I ever answer it with the “because I said so”, though. The Frog Princess tends to be a rule follower. She’s that kid that will see another child doing something and will turn to me and say “that’s not apohpiate (appropriate)”. She knows right from wrong, most of the time.
As we navigate all these new stages of parenting, I am reminded of what Jessica Lahey said to us last year when we had the pleasure of attending the #TalkEarly Summit. She spoke about how kids naturally like to know the why behind decisions, particularly in this age range because the Frog Princess most certainly has a heightened sense of justice. I swear she has ears for injustice. If I am watching the news or reading an article and she picks up on any injustice, she hone in and reiterate the situation and why it’s not fair or wrong.
I try my best to explain things. When I don’t have the answer, I tell her that too but assure her that I will find out.
Explaining things to kids becomes especially important when we talk about rules that we need them to follow for safety reasons. Jessica stated “when kids know the rules are safety based, they are more likely to follow than if you give them a ‘because I said so,’ type of response.”
I love engaging the Frog Princess in these types of discussion by asking her why I might be asking her to follow a rule. This gives her a chance to come up with some reasons related to what I’m saying and helps her process through the request.
Her heightened sense of justice gets us in a lot of conversations that become difficult because of the age appropriate nature of things. So, for example, when we’ve talked about family detentions or police brutality. There are times when I don’t share all the whys.
But, I don’t shut the conversation down completely. If it’s something that I can’t explain in an age appropriate manner, I tell her that. I let her know that the “why” or explanation might not be appropriate for her at the moment but that I will discuss that with her when she gets older (see also: “Mami, why are you and daddy not together?”).
Because I generally do answer the question, I’ve developed enough trust with her that she has confidence that I will, in fact, explain things when the time is right. It makes things easier but it doesn’t stop us from having the hard conversations.
It’s important for me that she understand certain topics that weren’t necessarily explained to me. Alcohol is certainly one of them.
I want her to know the why’s behind my rules, the rules of society and the consequences of breaking those. This is the time to lay down the foundation. I don’t want to miss it.
I also have fun fumbling through how her brain works. Some days she looks at teens and wonders why they do certain things. She is flabbergasted when I explain that one day, she will be a teen and her brain will be going through some changes as well (I really wish I had a camera on her at all times to show you the expression on her face).
I feel very much like I have my life together because Responsibility.org does have a program targeting tweens and parents of tweens called Ask Listen Learn, which includes resources on the developing brain so I can, at least appear to know what I am talking about. Also? I let her see me searching and fumbling. It’s important to me that she sees me struggling. I’m not perfect and I don’t expect her to be either. But, what I do expect is for us to have constant and continuing dialog.
The general rule at home is that we might not know everything but we can talk about everything and together, we can find answers.
Yes, this is why #TalkEarly is a constant tab in my browser’s window. I’m grateful to have them as a resource. So many different conversations get broached with the alcohol convo. Also? I feel that if we can talk about this (and the birds and the bees), there’s nothing we can’t tackle together.
Ultimately, that’s the message I want to send and I want her to carry with her as we build a strong foundation. Do you explain yourself (and rules) to your kid(s)?