I’m going to be really real with you here – my kid asks the tough questions before breakfast. Like, before I’ve even had one sip of coffee. She just throws them out there matter-of-factly with the straightest, most serious face, and it’s usually when I’m the only parent home, so there is no hubby-sized shield for me to duck behind. Does this happen to anyone else?
I’m half awake, stumbling around the kitchen – the dog needs to be fed, the coffee needs to be set up; I’m thinking about the first two things I need to tackle on a long list for the day and what to have for dinner. My daughter, a wide-awake school ager, cereal bowl filled to the brim, with all the potential of a new day brewing, decided this is the time in her life that she needs a mystery solved. “Mom, what’s a period?”
This is the process in my head in the 10 seconds it takes me to respond: uhhhhh. And ok, we’re doing this. Take a deep breath, be honest but brief. Really, before my coffee? Don’t laugh. O.M.G. wait ’til I call my husband to tell him about how much he owes me for dodging this one.
My response, “Are you sure you want to know, right now, today? I mean, you’re going to find out eventually, and it’s something that is going to happen to you, but you’re going to think it’s gross, and once you know, you can never unknow it.”
She hesitated but stayed curious. So I told her. And now she can never unknow it.
But then there are questions I feel a little bit more ok about answering before coffee, like the time she asked, “Wait, boys can like boys, and girls can like girls?” I said, “Yes, they can. What do you think about that?” She said it was sweet, I smiled at her, and she turned her attention back to the TV. Then we moved on with our day.
Now that she is on the brink of a developing body, she asks me constantly if she can get a bra today. Always first thing in the morning because that is on her to-do list. One morning I said maybe today … and she got some very beginner training bras. A set of two, to be exact. (Sorry, future grown daughter, if you’re reading this, this is part of the “perk” of parenting.) Now, every time we walk into a big box store, she tries to get me to say yes to adding to her collection of trainers. But I’m going to hold off for now. (Also, sorry, Honey, I know you’re also reading, but you contributed your genetics to a daughter. You’ll get over it. Maybe eventually.)
One morning before breakfast, she caught me tearing up, looking at the polls in the election year last year. She asked me what the big deal was, and I told her that a woman was going to be the Vice President of our country. For the first time. I saw the lightbulb go off in her mind, a realization that this was a role that she could aim for one day. But, true to character, she played it cool and responded with, “Wow. That’s pretty cool. Can I have a bagel?”
Where most kids think about the concept of death in the dark, before sleep, mine asked me about death before I was fully awake. Did I look like a zombie? I don’t know, probably. And she asked not in a sweet way. Or in a scared way. It was just, “Mama, will you and Dad die one day?” In the same tone, like, hey, can I borrow your sweater?
Y’all, she had me questioning my mortality and making calculations before coffee! The injustice. However, I did answer her with a “Yes, someday. Hopefully, a very long time from now.” And I waited to see if she had other questions, but that was it. For that day, anyway.
The tough questions come. They take you by surprise. But I’d rather answer her honestly and directly because I want her to feel like I am a safe space built on trust. I want her to know that I will answer those tough questions with the truth. She knows life has obstacles and heartbreak coming for her, but I will always be by her side, arms wide – a beacon of shining light – even before breakfast.