I remember growing up and being comfortable asking my parents any question whatsoever. They were honest parents… even about situations or circumstances that were painful or hard to talk about. Of course, being young I thought everyone’s experience was the same – it surprised me when I was a pre-teen to a teenager, and even into college to find out friends weren’t able to communicate as well with their own moms & dads. It made me sad for them, because as a child, who else do you have to depend on if not your parents for getting the important questions answered in life?
I learned so many things about life and people from hearing my parents talk about it. Yes, they were biased in many ways (their bias leaned toward a morality way of thinking – they were not people who embraced the lie that everything is true and good for you), my mom in particular, was careful to impart knowledge to me on being a woman, Christian, mother, and wife. She showed me the lies that feminists believe early on, calling them Femi-Nazis :). She talked about the importance of not having premarital sex, and the typical lies you hear from society to make you think its really beneficial. She talked about cohabitation & the detriments of wasting your youth and beauty on a man not committed to you. She even showed me a cousin in our family who had lived with a man throughout her 20’s – someone who never committed to her – only to have to dump him (he was also conveniently a bum), and go on to be single well into her 40’s while many of her friends had already gotten married, and had teenagers by that time. I even heard my cousin confirm what my mother had educated me on when younger, acknowledging that she “wasted her twenties away,” and didn’t really start living her life right until her 30’s.
She talked about the sordid dangers of alcohol abuse, and showed me members of our Catholic family who either were alcoholics or were recovering alcoholics. She talked about family dynamics and divorce, showing me how it affected the children well into adulthood and again, used examples from our own family so that the truth would really be obvious. She talked about religion, having grown up Catholic and feeling like she could never please God (a common ex-Catholic complaint), she told me the story of her hearing Billy Graham preaching on God’s love and grace and how she remembered the day she became a true Christian. Because of her background, she was quick to point out the differences in Protestant and Catholic faith, and talked about many family members who endured truly messed up lives because of their Catholic beliefs. Relatives who’d had too many children and either became sexually frigid with their husbands (because of the terrifying aspect of them getting pregnant again) and ruining their marriage, or in one horrible family case, becoming insanely abusive to some of their kids because they simply couldn’t handle that many children. In the latter situation, the abuse was so bad that it caused one of my cousins to be permanently brain damaged for the rest of his life.
She and my father freely talked about all this together, much like how my husband and I talk about any and everything. We’re already honest with our son in anything he wants to know about – and for a child who’s only 4, he wants to know about things I’d never dreamed he would ask me at this age. He already knows about the world, the detriment of our country, a little of politics, child abuse, neglect, the basics of Christianity and what the Bible talks about, things we don’t agree with the President on, divorce, adoption, miscarriage, abortion (that was a hard one to tell him… it was hard to explain that there are many women who would kill the baby inside them simply because they don’t want a child), and many other issues. Most parents would think that we’re too open with him on these things, we don’t think so at all. We explain them age appropriately, but we don’t gloss over or hide negative information in some kind of backwards attempt to shelter him from the world and life, and the evil that’s in it. He’s going to hear many of these things in school from other children, and I want him to be prepared and have knowledge in hand to be able to understand the lies or truths he will hear about controversial topics.
My father was so open and honest as well, I remember when I was a late teenager being upset that I hadn’t gotten past a B cup in breast growth. I was tall and slender, and my mother had already tried reassuring me that a size B was perfect for my slenderness – Gisele Bundchen even at the time, was my size & a Victoria’s Secret model (my mother pointed out gladly)! But even with knowing that a super model shared my breast size, I still needed reassurance. I actually felt comfortable enough to talk to my dad about it, something I know most teenage girls would probably never feel comfortable doing. But I asked him because I knew he’d answer me honestly, I had respect for him and trusted him immensely.
I asked him if it would be worth it to consider breast implants later – if it would be better if they were bigger.
As weird as it might’ve been for him, he didn’t show it at all, and let me know that it was fine – that men really don’t place that much importance on breast size (that its more women who obsess about big breasts). He had always told me how beautiful I was, fathers have so much influence on a girl’s confidence which reflects in her beauty, and he told me how the size I had was fine & that a good guy (the kind I wanted to marry) would appreciate so much more than breast size in me.
Of course, I already instinctively knew that, but sometimes kids/teens ask questions to their parents as a sort of “testing” to see if what they’ll say. And their words hold so much power over kids, and if they are trusted and admired, their words hold that same power for their teenagers. It was important for me to hear from a male that I loved and trusted that my beauty went far beyond just breast size.
My parents didn’t hide anything, even their mistakes and failures. My mother was honest about how she had gained too much weight during her pregnancies with me, and again with my brother.
She warned me how hard it was to be overweight – and how hard it is to lose weight after you’ve already gained over 20 pounds. She taught me about having a healthy body image, but didn’t pretend like being overweight was some kind of thing to be accepted. She made sure I exercised and ate healthy foods, and talked about the benefits of staying healthy and in shape the rest of my life.
She pointed to women in the family who’d had children and yet kept great shapes (something she’d failed at). She wasn’t insecure and jealous of them, she instead used them as good role models as wives and mothers. Because she was so honest and open, my respect and admiration for her sky-rocketed, even if she failed in gaining too much weight… she was honest about her mistakes, and that’s really what matters most in parents.
Its interesting that my husband had the opposite experience of not being able to ask any important questions in his family. Maybe they would’ve been open to talking about things, but he just simply felt like he couldn’t bring them up. When there was something embarrassing or painful in his family like a divorce or even a child’s death, the older parents, aunts, and uncles would “shelter” the children in the family by not giving them any information. The problem with this approach was that he never felt like he knew much about those difficult topics, how one should handle them correctly, or in the case of divorce, it was unclear why it even happened (it was literally never explained or talked about)… because they were shameful things, to be hidden from view – and not something the family viewed that the children could gain understanding from. Its almost like a lying by omission to exclude important details that a parent may find “too much” for a child. We really underestimate their ability to learn and understand lessons in life – lessons that come from the painful or hard experiences that families go through. Children need to know about life, and the situations that arise during their lifetime are a wealth of knowledge to them if their parents are keen to use it and educate them appropriately.
In our marriage now, we frequently bring up important topics so that our son can engage in conversation and learn about them – and he often does. We don’t hide anything from him except for things that wouldn’t be deemed age appropriate details.
No topic is taboo in our family, and he knows and loves the comfort of knowing we’re honest parents.