may contain coarse language and adult themes

It is a truth universally acknowledged (by parents) that all of the best conversations with your kids happen in the family car. Perhaps it’s the perception that the car is neutral ground. Or maybe it’s because there’s a captive audience.

What I have discovered is that driving with kids acts as a sort of truth serum. It is here that they are comfortable sharing secrets and troubles of the heart. If I feel that one of my kids has been a bit neglected, or that they are carrying a heavier metaphorical weight than usual I will often suggest a quick spin in the car in order to excavate the problem or simply to reconnect.

The car also seems to be where my kids indulge in a little test driving of the newest swear word or adult concept – usually couched as a junior-style investigation. “Mum, what is a d*#@head?” or; “Mum, what does ‘sexy’ mean?” or (a friend of mine’s pet peeve, prompted by radio advertising) “Mum, what is premature ejaculation?”

A little while ago the kids and I were driving home from a shopping trip. I was, as usual, engrossed in my mental to-do list and not really tuning in to their conversation. That is until the volume level rose ever so slightly.

Levi: “NO! I just want them to be partners.”

Indiana’s response was quieter, so I had to strain a little to hear:  “But can’t they just be les-beens?”

Levi: “NO!”

The kids were playing with Levi’s cuddly puppy toys and there seemed to be some disagreement about how the puppies’ relationship should be defined. I thought that now was the time to steer the discussion a little.

“What’s up kids?” I asked, hoping I sounded non-committal.

“I want the puppies to be les-beens…” started Indiana.

“I just want them to be partners,” whined Levi.

“Mum, what are les-beens anyway?”

I’m sure we have had this discussion before, but I humoured them. “Well, it’s when a girl chooses a girlfriend rather than a boyfriend.” Age-appropriate and easy to digest, I thought.

“What about if they’re boys, are they still called les-beens?” Indy responded, quick as a flash. Somehow I think she may have already had the schoolyard answers to these questions and was just testing to see if my responses married up.

Now I was in slightly deeper waters – what was the correct age-appropriate term for homosexual men? ‘Homosexual’ seemed too medical-textbook and everything else felt derogatory. Flying on a wing and a prayer, I went with my instinct. “Well, two men who love each other are often called ‘gay’,” I said.

The gaping silence from the backseat needed to be filled and, with visions of the aforementioned schoolyard, I said, “But you might have heard people say ‘gay’ in a mean way.”

A little murmur of assent came from behind so I soldiered on. “But it shouldn’t be said in a mean way and I hope you would never do that.” A solemn shake of the head from Indy signalled the end of today’s investigation. When the game continued, I think it was decided that the puppies would be known as ‘partners’. Fair enough.

Later that day, I rang Mum to tell her about my latest adventure as a mother. She treated me to a sample of her own very special brand of laissez faire parenting. “I would have just told you to work it out for yourselves,” she said.

*sigh* It really is a wonder I know anything at all. 😉

But her approach seems to have worked. I hope mine does too.


Filed under parenting

12 responses to “may contain coarse language and adult themes

  1. Oh boy! I had my own tough question today. My 5 year old boy started asking how mummies and daddies make babies? I stalled for just long enough that he was distracted by something and forgot he asked the question. Phew! Close call.

    I think I like “Work it out for yourself” 😉

  2. Premature ejaculation is usually caused by half-gayness, I’ve heard!

    The whole les-beens (are you sure it isn’t les-beans) thing is already covered at our place due to les-been aunts.

    Could you have suggested that one of the puppies wanted to be a surrogate Mum too?

  3. Silly idledad – les-beans is what you use to make la-coffee.

    I heard (from somewhere, probably Susan) that car rides are good for talking to teens, because you take out the whole confrontational “Face-to-Face” thing. Less eye contact means they are more open. So you are on a good thing there. According to “somewhere, probably Susan” at least.

    My own childhood questioning was answered in a more “Oh well now… hey, look over there – something shiny” kind of way. I ended up OK too, really. But am easily distracted.

  4. My 3y0 son makes both of his boy monkeys kiss each other.

    Should I start the ‘talk’ now?


    PS Love your work as usual xo

  5. LOL – Hilarious! I love discussing the ‘big’ issues with kids, because, for them, they’re never really that ‘big’ an issue 🙂

  6. Goodness I’m just marvelling at Angus saying “Daddy”! Can’t imagine having to face these questions in the not too distant future. Because as everyone says, it goes so fast! I think you did brilliantly!

  7. My daughter (12) does the car thing too, I get all manner of questions and that means my son (6) gets to hear most of the answers as well. Mind you, she’s not worried about asking the tough q’s face to face. I’ve been getting them since she was almost 4 🙂 WE got to cover the les-been thing a long time ago when the kids Godmother was chosen… she a les-been 🙂

  8. Loving les beans ~ la cofee
    My answer to ‘what is gay?’… ‘joyful’…. then I ask … ‘have you heard it be used in any other way?’…. ‘no’
    we drive a tarago… 2 rows back is a long distance for any meaningful conversations…. LOL

  9. I don’t know if you read my tweet the other day but 9yo daughter says “Wouldn’t it be weird if a husband wants to have sex with his wife?” 7yo son responds with “That’s disgusting.”

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  10. I was in my sister and BILs car when I was a young girl, when my niece (my age) piped up, “Mum – Jodie says that when you make a baby you have to be na-ked.” My sister was horrified. I recall her turning around from the front seat to stare at me with a “I’m not happy!” look. I don’t know how I knew that at the time, but I had told my niece that very thing the night before. But she wasn’t finished. She then said to my sister. “She also said you can’t wear any socks. Is that true?” Yep. Told her that as well.

    I. Was. Mortified.

  11. I think I have said it before – I am so glad I have wise mamas like you to go before me 🙂

  12. My classic car conversation …..
    DD9 – “Mum, what’s a hooker?”
    Me – “someone who has sex for money, sweetheart, it’s kind of their job I guess.”
    DD9 – “Okaaaaay. I guess you wouldn’t have to go to uni for that, would you?”

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