We pride ourselves in the knowledge that we live in a time like no other. A time where the amount of information created, consumed and freely available is beyond anything we’ve experienced in the past. We exist in a time where at the push of a button, we achieve access to nearly every answer man has ever discovered or needed. I have in the palm of my hand a venerable magic wand which, when fully charged, is able to give its possessor God like knowledge and understanding.
From the correct spelling of the world longest word (pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis for those of you who’d like to know) to the requirements to produce atomic energy, every single person has the ability to answer every single question ever asked, and in most cases correctly.
So why do I get the sense that in spite of limitless knowledge, common sense and general good choices seem to be on the decline?
I get the privilege of interacting with teenagers and those on the cusp of teenagerdom on a weekly basis, and it is blatantly obvious that they, in spite of having access to so much knowledge, lack one fundamental ingredient. They don’t know which answer is the right answer. Parents, especially in a South African context, often don’t bring much help to the table. Either they flat-out don’t want their children to ask “why” or they feel too uncomfortable to wade into the questions asked, for fear of the unknown or by chance, creating a greater awareness of things they don’t want their children to know about just yet.
Let’s understand each other, I fully agree that my 7 year needs more detailed answers than his 5-year-old brother, but definitely needs the PG version of the questions raised by the 14-year-old. But make no mistake, all the questions need an answer.
Don’t ask why, just accept!
Some parents encourage their children not ask why but rather just accept the guidance they get, albeit poor and vague. These parents might dance under the guise that they are guarding the innocence of their young ones, but actually they really are just sending the message that if a serious answer or discussion is needed, seek help elsewhere.
Mom and/or Dad, perhaps you have cultural reasons, perhaps you are afraid, perhaps you honestly believe you have no obligation to explain yourself further. But let me assure you, learning through osmosis does not happen and if you don’t encourage your children to ask you questions and answer them honestly and openly, I 100% guarantee they will find someone who will. This question and answer session will probably be done under the cloak of darkness, from questionable sources with no vested interest in your child and quite possibly ulterior motives.
Go ask you Mother/Father!
There was a radio advert recently which cast a Dad in the throes of answering a question around the origin of babies. The advert goes on to applaud the Dad’s quick thinking and clever maneuvering as he diverts the child to Mom. Dad’s, incase you missed the first chapter on the big book of being a Dad, here’s the main thrust. You are important! Which means, when looking after the little one, it is not called babysitting but parenting and when a question is asked, especially by Johnny, you need to take the lead, put on your man pants, swallow your embarrassment or awkwardness and give him an answer worthy of the courage it took in asking it. If not, just like with the situation above, they will seek help elsewhere. I am absolutely fine with experiencing some awkwardness in place of my child experiencing a half truth or worse.
Some topics I want my kids well read in, by me and my wife, must therefore be: God, Adoption, Sex, How to treat a woman, Success, Significance, Values, Parenting, Serving and Money to name a few. I will be held accountable anyway, so rather let me be judged on my own words than someone elses, simply because they were louder than mine!