I love when my kids ask me questions about things that I take for granted or that are sensitive subjects. Having to explain those things forces me to reevaluate my own assumptions and conclusions about them. Sometimes I realize that I've been thinking about something wrongly or have missed a fairly important part of the discussion.
It's also important to me because I know that when I answer their questions, I'm shaping the way that they view the world and the people in it. That's a big deal and something that will form how they deal with life.
I got caught off-guard about a week ago. My oldest and I were doing some work around the house while everyone else was out running some errands. Right in the middle of lifting something heavy, he asks, "Dad, what's a lesbian?"
The particulars of the answer to his question aren't what I want to focus on in this article. This isn't about homosexuality. Instead, I want to talk about the thought process behind my response and how I tried to frame his understanding in a way that was consistent with the values of our family and in a way that would help shape him into the sort of person that I want him to become.
I told him that was a good question and that I wanted to give him a good answer, but that I needed a minute to think about how to answer it. In that minute, I thought about the various lenses through which I and other people view the subject and how those lenses color our thoughts.
It's important to me that my kids be able to independently think things through and develop well-reasoned opinions that they hold lightly so that they can consider new information and perspectives. I want them to have a clear sense of right and wrong as well as an understanding of the area between right and wrong that is open to interpretation.
Of course I want them to come to the conclusions that I've come to, but it's possible that my conclusion is incomplete, inaccurate, or simply wrong. Equipping my sons with age-appropriate strategies, tactics, tools, and information to make their own decisions is critical to helping grow them into the strong men that I want them to become. It also communicates a level of trust and confidence in their ability to be free-thinking individuals that will grow their self-confidence.
After a minute or two of thinking, I gave him the best answer I could. I presented as many views as I could as well as I could. I shared how I thought about the various views as a guide, but encouraged him to think through it as well on his own and to keep asking questions as they came up.
If your kids are asking you tough questions, you're doing something right. It means they trust you and want your insight into something. They value and are seeking your input. Take the time to give a good answer and make sure to encourage questions.