By Kee Smith
I don’t know who needs to hear this but stop lying to your kids. Have those complex conversations that you think they aren’t ready? When I was pregnant with my daughter, there was tons of information given to me. I heard about terrible twos and teenage threes. The importance of sleeping while the baby sleeps–even though they left out the part where you don’t sleep while the baby sleeps because you have to look at the baby while the baby is sleeping. The list goes on. The one thing that no one ever warned me about was the complex conversations, how soon you’d have to have them, how important they are and how until you have a daughter of your own, you won’t realize that some of the conversations you have to have, were never had with you as a child.
My daughter is nine years old going on ninety. She has such an old, pure, intelligent soul. So much so that when people tell me that I’m doing a good job raising her, I almost always reply by telling them that she’s raising me. I say that because she’s constantly challenging me to expand in ways I wasn’t even aware were necessary. One of those ways is through communication. I’m a great writer. Obviously, I enjoy it, and I’ve always communicated much better in writing than I have verbally because I can organize my thoughts much better that way. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter when you have a curious child.
Now, I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that an omission is a form of lying, but the exception is when it comes to children. I don’t believe in lying to children. I won’t lie to a child, but I will most certainly leave out a few facts if I feel like it isn’t time or necessary to process certain information at a young age. But what about the inevitable conversations? The ones that pertain to puberty, or why her parents live in two different houses, but her friends’ parents don’t? What about the conversations about racism or sexism? These are all conversations I was having with my baby when she was five years old because she was curious. Initially, I would hesitate to answer specific questions or struggle with breaking down such complex questions in a fashion in which a five-year-old could grasp and thoroughly process the information.
The day she caught me off guard and asked me what I used tampons for was the day we had a very impromptu mini-period talk. I was so nervous because I thought that she was too young to have that sort of talk until I realized that if she could use her five years’ worth of vocabulary to ask the question, I could pull from her five years of vocabulary to give her an answer. Beyond it being a teaching moment of her body, I felt as though it was also laying a foundation of open communication within our relationship, and that’s why I think it is vital that we have complex conversations with our children even if WE feel they aren’t ready. Of course, water it down if you have to, so that they can understand as much as their growing minds will allow them to but have that convo–whatever it is.
Outside of the typical complex questions, my daughter and I have had some tough talks. She’s held me accountable for things that she’s noticed, and in those moments of vulnerability, I made sure to answer from a place of honesty and vulnerability. I asked her how she felt about my answers to make sure that she felt validated in her feelings, too. Do you want to know what she said? “I feel much better because you just told me the truth, and you didn’t make me wait until I was older to hear it.” Sometimes we think they aren’t ready, but the truth is that we can find the pieces they’re prepared for if we dig deep enough. In turn, we create a safe space for transparency in the future, too. I think it also teaches them how to communicate in a healthy capacity openly, and I’m sure you can imagine all of the reasons that’s important too.
Kee Smith is a contributing writer and is a homie, lover and friend and always “write” on time. Be sure to connect on IG @_ _ _lowkee