One day I said to my kids in a stern voice, “Don’t play that way, because if you do one of you will fall and hit your head. Then you’ll pass out, and you’ll be bleeding profusely. I’ll have to take you to the hospital, and we’ll be waiting three hours. No money for the vending machine, and the stinky old man sitting by us will try to give you candy. But you won’t get it, because you never know! And that’s why Mama always checks your candy on Halloween.”
At the end of this speech, my children stared at me in a daze, terrified of they don’t know what, because they’ve forgotten what I’ve told them not to do in the first place.
My husband can say to the kids matter-of-factly, “No, you can’t play with that. It’s dangerous!” If they ask why, he simply responds with the classic, “Because I told you so!”
But if they ask me why, I’m likely to give them a gruesome, full-bodied answer. This doesn’t just apply to questions concerning their safety.
Not long ago, my son pointed to a picture of an Egyptian mummy.
“How did they make mummies?’ he asked.
I understand his fascination. But what to say? It never occurs to me to lie, I really don’t know. I believe it was a complicated, mysterious process – which nobody does nowadays, so don’t you worry!
“You really don’t want to know,” I say, feeding his appetite.
“Oh, come on. Tell me, Mama!”
“Well…alright then.” I laugh and make room for him on the couch. “Okay, first they took a long metal hook which they inserted into the nose of the dearly departed…”
The other day the kids were playing with a splintery board. They leaned it on the slide, so they could scamper up to their playfort.
“Hey, hey, hey!” I yelled. “You get that board off there right now!”
“Why?” said my son.
“What’s a tetanus shot?” he asked nervously.
“It’s a shot you have to get when a rusty old nail goes through your foot,” I said. “The needle they give it with is, like, a quarter inch thick. Last time I got one, I passed out. My arm hurt for days. I ran a fever, too.”
Berto looked at the board, finally spotted the nails, and pitched it over the slide as if it were on fire.
I nodded my head in approval and went back inside. But next time I think I’ll caution them with a story that doesn’t involve passing out in excruciating pain. I’ll tell them about stitches, perhaps.
Hillary is a frustrated, starving blogger who yearns to play the banjo like Steve Martin. Her four kids sometimes feel they are more mature than she is. This is probably because she threatens to sell them to the zoo regularly and dances like a Charlie Brown character. She writes at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. http://nopensorpencils.