Reassuring Our Children

Our children know us very well. Not having jobs or other responsibilities and not coming to the task with a lot of useless information they have lots of time to observe us and make experiments. If I do this, will they do that? Will they be consistent? Are there seasonal or day/night variations? And they are dependent on us which makes them care and pay special attention when we say we have to have a special conversation. But what they notice, whether it’s about war or a natural disaster or sex or an election, is more how upset or uncomfortable we are than the content of what we say. Reassuring your child that shots don’t hurt or that the doctor is nice are likely to backfire because they can tell that the parent who is telling them this doesn’t really believe it. If I’m such a nice guy and shots don’t hurt, why mention it at all?

When a teenager asks me if shots hurt I tell them it’s the most terrible pain a human can endure. While they are temporarily stunned by an unexpected statement, I give them the shot. Then they tell me it wasn’t really so bad.

I most certainly did not want Trump to win the election, but he did. The most reassuring thing for them is to see that their parents are more or less the same people they’ve always been and that their lives will go on. After the shock of an unexpected result I’ve reassured myself that we’ve had bad presidents before and that it’s not entirely impossible that some good things might happen. I look forward to the Republicans who have been obstructionists having to come up with workable answers to complex problems like the high cost of medications. And good luck with that wall.

Whether it’s sex, a family illness or crisis, the first day at school or losing a soccer game our first job should be to reassure ourselves. If we can do that, our kids will be fine. Yes, I Googled New Zealand and Canadian real estate but then I calmed down and reflected on how little campaign bombast amounts to doable stuff. Then I asked Oliver if he had any questions about Trump and he said “No, Dad. I’m good.” which is more or less what he said about sex.

by Mark Vonnegut, November 10, 2016

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