Giving Out “Should” and “Want To” Life Answers


Buckle up for all of the random questions about life your kids will ask you. They are seemingly harmless questions. But the answers have all the potential for shaping them as people and sticking with them for the rest of their lives.

And for every innocent question, there are usually two life answers: the answer you “should” give and the answer you “want to” give (but won’t.) The “should” answers are the wise or affectionate answers that will allow them to be happy, well-adjusted individuals. These answers sound like they belong inside a greeting card. The “want to” answers represent that dark, cranky, alter-ego that exists inside of you (whether you like to admit it or not.)

The “should” answer to the question “why do I have to share?” sounds something like this: “Because we all have to look out for each other. Sometimes we all need a little help. When you share, you are showing kindness that will be returned to you someday” etc. The “want to” answer looks like this: “You need to share because you never know who’s packing heat, kid.”

The “should” answer to the question “what do I have to do to be smart?” sounds something like this; “Read a lot and do your spelling homework. Even Einstein couldn’t spell ‘feathers’ on the first try.”  The “want to” answer looks like this: “Do what I tell you to do; stop fighting with your brother, pick up your coat and stop hanging like a monkey off the grocery cart. I don’t know if doing those things will make you smarter, but they will definitely keep you out of ‘time out’ longer.”

And then there are some days when you get life questions that stop you dead in your tracks. It’s a real turning moment in motherhood, meaning that what you say right now, could make all the difference in their world for years to come. It feels like an invisible pair of hands grabs you by the lapels and growls “Listen up and don’t screw this up!”

One night, my 11-year old son asked me these questions in rapid-fire motion as I was tucking him in at bedtime.

“What does ‘demise’ mean?”
“What does ‘injustice’ mean?”
“If I was a runaway, would you try to find me?”

Answers? This is what I had (after a long, 12+ hour day at work:)

“The word ‘demise’ is another word for death.”

“ ’Injustice’ means when the rules aren’t carried out the way they should be. Injustice happens when the rules aren’t applied fairly to everyone. It’s like when people are blamed for things they didn’t do or people caught lying aren’t punished like they should be.”

“If you ran away from home, I would be out of my mind with fear and worry. I would find police officers or other grown-ups to help me find you because that’s how important you are to me. I would just want to know that you are safe and OK.”

OK;  Once in a while, I think us moms do get it right.