Like many parents, I try to tell the truth to my kids when they ask a question. Sometimes that means explaining something I'm not mentally prepared to explain. Like when my daughter pointed to the condom machine in the truck stop restroom and asked, "What's that?" Thank goodness I got to practice (and observe) some of the more important conversations in the parent education courses I take.
As part of the co-operative preschool model, all the families enrolled in the system take monthly classes led by experts in child development and parenting. Unlike, oh, I don't know, Jo Frost (Supernanny) they all have children themselves. Whatever situation you ask them about, they've usually been there. From these great educators, and special guests like Amy Lang, I'm learning how to answer questions like the one my daughter posed. First, I gave simple, short answers that related to things she already knew. I tried to stay calm and listen to what she was really asking. Here's how it went:
Cora: Mom, what's that?
Me: A condom machine. It sells condoms.
Cora: What's a condom?
Me: A piece of plastic that stops someone from getting pregnant.
Cora: Where does it go?
Me: Over the penis.
Me: Did that answer your question?
Whew. We made it. She could have asked me lots of other questions. But she didn't. At five years old she just wasn't making the connections that we do. Since we already talked about how babies are made, I wasn't leaving her hanging there, I hope. Of course, this was just a small piece of the ongoing conversation about sex. Just like our conversations about war, religion, race, and hundred other topics. As of now, I still vow to tell the truth about those things too. Just not Santa or the tooth fairy.