There is something about explaining things to children that makes them clearer. If you ever find yourself fuzzy over an issue or you think you may be taking a position on the wrong side, float it over your children, or, if the subject is too heavy, at least imagine discussing it with children.
This works especially well with controversial issues. Try it with euthanasia, for example. When Terri Shiavo’s photograph appeared every time I got online, my kids began asking questions.
“Who’s that, Mommy?” “A lady.” “Why is she like that?” “She’s sick.” “Why do they keep showing her picture?”
The conversation had begun. Children are not jaded, and they have such a fresh and uncomplicated view on things. Imagine how horrified they were to find out that people could just starve and dehydrate a sick woman to death, just because she was sick. I explained all of the ‘whys’, none of which I agreed with, and it is amazing how much clearer the issue becomes as the words form in your mouth. “Uh, her husband was tired of caring for her (I left out the part about his girlfriend).” “It is expensive to care for sick people.” “Some people think she will be better off dead.” Imagine the blank stares with that one. We ended up having a great conversation on the sanctity of life.
A friend of mine noticed this phenomenon regarding birth control and sterilization. She confided that she could not bring herself to tell her children that she had purposely sterilizied herself. As she imagined the words forming on her tongue, the truth seemed grotesque; “I surgically mutilated my perfectly healthy reproductive organs.” How could children begin to understand that? In other words, “I went to great and scary lengths to avoid more of you!” Not something children want to hear from their mom.
The same thing is happening now with adoption. Many well-meaning people have been giving us all kinds of reasons why we should not adopt, from “You already have too many” (which one should we put back??), “Your family is so nice as it is, why add problems?,”and “It is too expensive.” I don’t even have to bring these reasons up to my children, I can already imagine their responses. They simply know that they are worth it all, so why wouldn’t another child be worth it too?
I can imagine some people saying that there are good reasons why we don’t discuss complicated issues such as these with children. While I agree that some subjects may be too much for some children, I still think that people are afraid to hear what the children will say. Or perhaps their view arose from experience, when their very words stopped in their mouths as they looked into the clear and open eyes of a child. Nothing clarifies your values like a child.