I Think, Therefore I Am- No Batteries or Sex Required

The great thinker, Rene Descartes himself, gave us the foundation upon which to deny s-e-x: thought alone- no base act- produces existence!  Granted, it takes some convincing for kids to accept this, but you have to stick to your guns.  Throughout my years as an educator and a parent, I have imagined people asking me “How should children learn about sex?”  My response never varies.  “Please, let them learn about sex the way the rest of us did- from our friends.”   If I had learned about sex from my parents, I might have never had sex or even gotten married… either time!  Sorting out the inaccuracies she hears about sex on the playground will help my daughter distinguish bad from good information later on- like when she is writing an English paper at the eleventh hour and is having to sift through and judge which internet sources are reliable.  Is sex really the way Lucy described it or was cooty-laden Ralph more accurate?  Lucy is a friend but has been known to buy that nonsense about garden gnomes coming to life after dark.  Ralph on the other hand, although unappealing, did explain with great accuracy how to burp the alphabet- a real guy-in-the-know, if you will.  Which source is trustworthy and which one is not?  Aha!  That is where the real analysis takes place.  Now she will be prepared for the future!  She will already have had the benefit of confronting a tough dilemma and seeing if her educated guess turned out to be right or not.  Think of it like this: just as Latin class helps with the SAT vocabulary section, sifting through erroneous information develops critical thinking skills.   So, don’t feel bad about this particular set of lies.  You’re actually helping your kid!  It’s called problem solving and resourcefulness.  It’s all the rage.  Really.  Look it up!

So, continue to deny any knowledge of sex.  For us visual learners, here is a handy-dandy flow chart to tackle the potential, pesky ramifications for children ranging from “easy to please” to the tenacious.   The chart shows how a child can escalate the situation by rejecting a perfectly good deflection.  Remember: you have to stay ahead of them and be able to predict their next move.  Let us not forget that children are like terriers; they are cunning and do not use their intelligence for good.  They want their curious minds satisfied but they are not prepared for the awful truth.  These series of parental responses are very helpful.  You can fill in the blank for the child’s question- it can come in many forms.  That is not important- just focus on the parent’s ability to squeeze through some pretty narrow spaces!

Subliminal Messages- and how to [follow this blog!] protect your kids from the truth

We have discussed deflection and how to use it.  Now let’s take this a step further and introduce the concept of subliminal messaging.  Subliminal tactics can be used during deflection- or if deflection really has not done the trick.  Those savvy children can sometimes latch on to a concept and not want to let go for love nor money.

Let’s start with something fairly simple.  For the sake of argument, imagine that your spouse is also a fairly distant cousin of yours.  This is perfectly legal, mind you, but is potentially embarrassing scoop.  You want to prepare your children for this information, but they are not ready for it now.  I mean, why would it not be legal to marry your cousin?  Seems perfectly normal.  You already are family and love each other- plus there would no longer really be any in-laws!  Be careful, though, making too many excuses may force you to explain why cousins don’t marry, leading you to the whole sex thing.  Not in this blog, you don’t!  Instead, focus on things like royal families early on.  I am a big fan of European royalty, which is downright packed with conjugal cousins. Paper dolls of royal families are readily available as well as exciting knight tales for the more adventure inclined.  Soon you can start showing your kids some royal family trees- oops, not a lot of forks on those!  Never mind- you’re already paving the way!

Fine, that’s easy enough, but what if you have a less easily admitted secret?   How about if you were once a stripper?  Ouch!  That’s a tough one!  You want to go with a scenario that allows you to explain the error of your ways without any trickle down of the “sins-of-the-fathers” effect.  Well, here is an example of how you could start planning early for the Big Reveal.  Do this often.  Think: wash, rinse and repeat.

“Mommy, I love my tap dance class!”

“I’m so happy sweetie.  Mommy loved dancing, too.  She also loved bikinis. That was a long time ago.  You don’t want to see mommy in a bikini now, huh?  Ha!”

“Not really, but I think you’re pretty!”

“Thanks, baby!  I used to be really pretty… in a bikini.  But you won’t be mad if mommy used to wear a bikini?”

“Of course not, mommy!  Silly.  I love my butterfly bikini!”

“Me, too!  You know you can dance or you can wear a bikini.  You don’t really want to do both at the same time.  But college is so expensive, and all those darned student loans aren’t going to pay themselves!  Poor Mommy!  So, no dancing in bikinis, OK?”

“OK, only dance in a one-piece.”

“That’s a start.  We’re getting there!  Mommy loves baby!”

When the time comes for your sweet child to learn the truth through supposed friends’ Throwback Thursday pictures of you performing an air dance while observing the two feet rule, you will have already successfully planted the seeds of understanding.  As you can see, eventually little Tiffany may be a bit shocked by your previous money making endeavors, but she will accept you and forgive your former 20 year-old self for having to make the necessary sacrifices to be a self-sufficient, educated woman.  Roar!

“Little Ears are Listening”- and other potential horror movie titles…

I firmly believe that we parents establish what is and what is not important for our children.  I don’t mean that we teach them, I am referring to what they pick up eavesdropping on our private conversations.  Don’t be fooled by the earnest look of concentration once they have conned you into playing some game on your iPhone- which is the principal reason I don’t own one (flip phones rule!).  Trust me, they are listening!  So, make sure you pepper any conversation with your spouse with an adequate number of platitudes every couple of minutes.  Keep the kids off the scent- they are like hound dogs after incriminating evidence.  Take for example a conversation I had with my husband in which our unfortunate biases could have been picked up by our children, except for the brilliance of truism deflection!

“So, honey, did you remember to pay the pool dues?”

“God, why do we have to belong to a private pool?!?!”

“I take it that’s a ‘no.’  May I remind you of the tattoo-enhanced deviants at the community pool we went to that summer?  You know, the ones that kept having ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ after consuming large amounts of unspeakable frozen drinks?  What a bunch of….”  Sly look our way.  “I mean, why would you ever get a tattoo when real beauty is on the inside?  The inside is what counts!”

“Right, the inside.”

“Beauty is only skin deep, you know.”

“Especially if you’re covered in tattoos….”  Snort.

“Deviating, deviating….”

“Beauty is as beauty does.”

“Just pay the darned bill, will ya?  Mommy loves daddy!”

“And daddy loves mommy because her beauty is only on the inside.”

“Easy, pal.”

image from favim.com

See?  How simple was that?  And it’s a fun way to engage your partner in an amusing game of platitude chicken!  Let’s be honest with each other here: by the time you have been married for almost two decades and have children, you are desperate for any form of reciprocal entertainment, no matter how base!

Ultimately, you don’t want your kids to think that belonging to a certain institution, or wearing certain clothes makes them better or worse than anyone else.  But you also have to consider that seeing a tattooed grandma in a bikini perched on the edge of a pool, balancing her two-year old grandchild in one arm, with a 64 ounce “slurpee” in the other, all while momentarily placing her lit cigarette between rolls of fat for safekeeping, is probably not an appropriate life lesson either.    Although her multitasking was pretty impressive….

And nothing is wrong with tattoos- some of my best friends have permanent body paint!  That’s all I’m saying on the matter.

Deflection- or the First Step in the Art of Lying Responsibly

I have mentioned deflection several times to you, and modeled some of it in my previous posts.  Now it is time to explain this important methodology. This tactic is a basic distraction move that allows you to steer your child away from a potentially harmful subject.  After all, children want you to deflect not inform.  Depending on a child’s age, intelligence and ability to focus (oh, we lucky ADD parents!) this can be a quick and easy fix.  A dangerous question posed by the child can easily be counteracted with a simple ploy that reroutes their attention to something more appropriate. Your success in this area rests on how genuine your interest in the distracting subject appears, and the amount of titillating information you can sound off about after the initial digression.  Examples are provided below on how to react after such questions, based on your location.

  • At home: you could ask in an urgent voice “did something just fly by the window?” followed by a rush to said pane, creating a teachable moment about regional birds. It does not matter if there is a bird anywhere in sight.  It’s called having an imagination!  Wax poetic about pink flamingoes (who cares?) just get them off the topic of Uncle Tony’s divorce and subsequent sightings with an exotic dancer!  For Christ’s sake, where do they get their intel?!?!
  • In the car: you can excitedly point out something that might interest your child (a car, a fire station, a flower in bloom – the possibilities are endless!) and then start yammering on and on about them. Who knows?  You may plant a seed for a future interest that will allow you to brag about how your kid is a botanist at the Smithsonian who on weekends rescues cats as a volunteer fireman.  How do you think the Chinese produce so many damned gymnasts?  “What did you say about the Chairman?!  How dare you?  Now leap about the house for a few  hours- no one questions the communist party!”
  • At a play date: this is tricky, as you may have to save face if the question is posed in front of another parent- or worse yet, in front of one of those “progressive” lunatics who wants to explain everything down to the last grotesque detail, especially if it has to do with body fluids (because their mommy and daddy never told them “the truth”). This deflection must be clever, believable and self-serving.  Nothing is more credible than a parent’s need to brag about their kids.  So, a “where do girls pee from if they have no boy parts?” can be followed with an “anatomy is such a fascinating subject for Tommy.  The interconnectivity of it all, cause and effect.  Just drives him wild!  Have you heard him sing Dem Bones yet?!?  He’s so culturally curious, too.  I believe it was originally an African American slave tune referring to the Second Coming.  Come on Tommy, regale us with your version of Dem Bones!”  Jumping up and down while clapping helps rile the kids up and the other parent looks like an envious jerk if he or she doesn’t beg for the song, too.  Easy-peasy, but you have to think fast!  Oh, and be fairly shameless.
  • On the playground: this is where pratfalls come in pretty darned handy, especially if, again, other parents are present. I always am sure to be lurking near a bench to cushion a well-timed fall, but they really have great layers of spongy mulch in most playgrounds nowadays; so, there is really no excuse to flub this one.  For the particularly nervous, a simple misplaced step while approaching the overly curious child, followed by a quick regaining of balance, can be hammed up with a holler and some avid hand fanning afterwards.  Another no-brainer!

Deflection, as you can see, is a basic tool of the trade that can easily be extrapolated into all sorts of situations at work and at home.  You can even try it out on your spouse!  I hate having to explain the credit card bill.