Rarely does a day go by that my kids don't stump me with a sticky question. About a week ago, as I ran around the house turning the clocks back for the end of daylight savings time, my 9-year-old looked up from her Barbies and said, "Mom, what time did the world start?"
When I'm in Good Mom Mode, I usually struggle for a smart, authoritative answer. This was easy when they were younger and they threw softballs at me like "Why do I have to go to bed?" Back then, it was just a matter of stamina, keeping up with the rapid-fire why-why-whys. I wanted my kids to be curious and question the world around them. I swore never to say, "because I told you so."
Then they got older. And the questions got trickier. Here's a sampler:
* If you're swimming underwater in the pool, are you wet?
* If Nicole's mom isn't married, how come she's having a baby?
* Why can't we divide by 0?
* How come all the fish don't die when lightning hits the ocean?
* Why can't I pick my nose?
* What's a threesome?
* Who decided it was OK to eat cows?
* What does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth?
Although it's tempting to keep pretending that mom is all-knowing, I have been forced to rethink my strategy when it comes to some of these zingers. Now I divide my replies into three basic responses:
"I don't know…let's look it up…"
I like this one because it's reassuring. It tells kids, "Look, there is an answer for every question. I'll show you. There is order in this world." Thank God for Google! We've found answers online for such puzzlers as: "What causes a brain freeze when I drink a Slurpee?" "Why don't haircuts hurt?" "What makes a rainbow?" and "Why don't birds get electrocuted when they sit on power lines?" (I've answered enough questions, you look it up.)
"Hmm, good question…how much homework do you have again?"
Changing the subject or distracting the interrogator is a good ploy when I have a brain freeze, I'm not quite ready to go there yet or I'm uncomfortable discussing this in front of all the people in the checkout line at Publix. This works with such questions as: "Have you kissed anybody else besides Papa?" "Why did Chris Brown hit Rihanna?" "Why doesn't my teddy bear have a penis – he's a boy, right?" "Is grandma rich?" and "Why did the Beatles break up?"
"Wow, I don't know. Go ask your father."
This is a good stall technique that is slightly more ethical than lying, which I've stooped to from time to time in the face of such questions as "Are you Santa?" (Nope.) Sometimes I use this one just to get a good laugh thinking about my husband's reaction to questions like "So, Papa, what exactly is a virgin?"ã