Friday, June 26, 2009

The tough questions

There comes a time in every parent’s life when you must answer the really important questions.

Where do babies come from?

Where is heaven?

Why do people die?

Was Michael Jackson black or white?

What?!? Of all the questions one of my kids could ask me about Michael Jackson or his death, this is what I have to answer? That one really stumped me. I’d actually prefer to answer the “Where do babies come from?” question.

Charlie asked me this question this morning as I was watching “Good Morning America.” I almost choked on my Cheerios because this question came out of left field. He said very innocently, "Mom, was Michael Jackson black or white? Because he looks black in some pictures, but then it looks like he turned white. Which one was he?" Umm….how do I answer this tactfully? Gotta think on my feet.

So I said, “Well, he was born black, but then I think he took some medicine and it turned his skin white. But he was still the same person, even if he looked like a totally different person. It doesn't matter. We should always accept people, no matter how they look.”

What?!? Stupid answer, Clare. Or was it the right one?!?

I always overanalyze these situations because I want to say the most appropriate thing. I want to be PC, even with the kids, lest they go around repeating my little “gems” of wisdom to their friends. And they will repeat what you say. Bill and I aim to teach them tolerance and acceptance of others. But we want to do it in a way that doesn't overwhelm them with so much information that we confuse them.

It’s not that I want to shield them from current events. We have talked about the war in Iraq, and the situations in North Korea and Iran. We also talked about the "Jon and Kate" divorce when we were in line at the grocery store and one of them read it on the cover of a tabloid and asked what it meant. Charlie and Henry are 8 years old and 7 years old respectfully, so I think it’s time to let them know that there’s a bigger world out there than what they find in their neighborhood and school. But I do wish I could send the news through a cheesecloth-like strainer some days and only pull out the information I want them to have.

A few weeks ago I had the 5:00 news on as background noise while I was cooking dinner and the kids were playing in another part of the house. There was a teaser for a story about the “pregnant man,” who just had another baby. Of course, Charlie popped in the room, overheard that exact line, and said, “A PREGNANT MAN?!? What?!?” To which I quickly said, “Oh, they were joking!” and flipped the channel. I was flummoxed and didn’t know what to say, so I did what most people do when they are flummoxed: I said nothing. Stupid? Perhaps. But we haven’t had the entire discussion about exactly how women have babies, so how the heck am I going to explain how a “man” has a baby? No thanks. Not ready for that yet.

Back to Michael Jackson.

There has been wall-to-wall news coverage of the untimely death of “the King of Pop,” and Bill and I were discussing it, so we would be dumb to try and shield the kids from it. Besides, I wanted to watch some of the news stories about him. I was a big MJ fan back in the “Thriller” and “Bad” days, before Michael started looking like he hired a toddler with a Play-Doh knife to perform plastic surgery on his face.

As I sat on the couch with Charlie this morning watching the news coverage, I was armed with the remote, ready to flip the channel if a reporter started talking about molestation charges brought up against Michael in the past. Yes, I repeatedly have the discussion with my children to never let anyone touch their privates, but no, I was not interested in having the discussion with regards to the allegations against Michael Jackson. I would rather talk about how great some of his music was, and how he started singing when he was very young.

We had the discussion about death again, although my children are unfortunately a bit familiar with death because their grandpa died unexpectedly in 2007. We also had the discussion about drugs and how bad they are, and how they can ruin your heart and kill you. And yes, I used the word “kill” because I’m perfectly happy to scare the crap out of them if it means protecting them.

I know that life is not all rainbows and unicorns.

But is it wrong of me to let them think that it is for just a little bit longer?

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