Step-Parent Etiquette: How To Handle Awkward Questionsby Rosa Lear
Yesterday while I was eating dinner with my husband’s four year old son, "D," he asked me why we couldn’t move our house closer to his mommy’s.
I laughed, because at first I thought he was joking, but seeing those big, innocent, questioning blue eyes staring up at me, I quickly realized he wasn’t. For him, it was a very logical solution to a problem of the physical distance between his two homes - a way to have the people he loves most in the world together.
This isn’t the first awkward question or comment that D has posed to me. And he’s definitely arrived at the questioning phase where just stating something isn’t enough; he needs an explanation. And some of the questions catch me completely off guard, leaving me struggling to find an answer.
In general, I’m not a big fan of using the "dodge and avoid" method of handling uncomfortable questions - I try to answer anything I'm asked truthfully. I’ve always tried to do the same with D’s questions. Of course, it isn’t always easy, but I’d rather tell him the truth (even when it's complicated) because he remembers everything and I don’t want him ever to think I lied to him if he happens to regurgitate the answer to someone else down the road.
Here are some of the more awkward questions he has asked me:
- Did I do [xyz] when I was a tiny baby?
- Why can’t Mommy live with us?
- How come Mommy and Daddy don’t live together?
- What will my brother/sister call my mommy?
- Was I in your tummy too?
Having grown up in a home where questions weren’t always answered truthfully or answers were simply made up, I know what it’s like to state something like its fact and have others make fun of you because it’s not. I definitely don’t want that for D.
So how do I answer these questions? The truth is always the priority. Always. But the truth I would give to an adult isn’t the same truth that I would give D, so I try to phrase it in a way that makes sense for someone his age.
For example, I wouldn't give him the brutally honest answer to his “Why can’t we move our house next to Mommy’s house?” question because he doesn’t need to be privy to it, but I did tell him that both Mommy and then Daddy and Rosa are adults and need our own space and privacy away from each other, so it’s okay that we don’t live next to the other. He seemed okay with this answer and I didn’t elaborate.
Because the children of split households can get completely different answers to the same questions, I think it’s important that each set of parental units strives to answer questions honestly, keeping personal judgments and feelings separate. Children deserve honesty and can certainly handle it when conveyed at their comprehension level.
Has your step-child or child asked you an awkward question? How did you handle it?