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questions kids ask

Seriously. This is how I feel every Saturday now...

Seriously. I fear this is true.

Scene 1

On our way home in the car, the 11 year-old lodged an official complaint against his younger brother for embarassing him in school: He talks about God too much. He said things like, “God created everything” in daily, random conversations, without prompting. On top of that, he also sometimes sports a British accent, according to his older brother, “Like Charlie and Lola!”

(Trying very hard not to laugh out loud since both kids were visibly upset).

“People don’t talk that way. It is rude. You can’t assume that the person believes in what YOU believe in.”

“He was telling Miss [Babysitter] about the Ten Commandments!”

“Well,” I attempted to smooth things out, “Miss [Babysitter] is probably not offended. At any rate, it is very possible she is Catholic since her family moved from Poland when she was in high school.”

“Isn’t it rude to assume?” Once again, he got me right then and there.

He was so indignant. Mr. Monk, my 6-year-old, started wailing. “I DID NOT! And why can’t I tell her about the Ten Commandments? She knows about them too!”

At the same time I was proud that we must be doing something right bringing up my oldest, I also felt panic. Surely my youngest is confused as hell. If we insist on him going to Religious Ed every Saturday morning, why can’t he talk about what he has learned there? And if there are people that do not believe in Jesus and God as taught in Religious Ed, for example, Mommy Heathen here, why does he have to believe? Of course, these were questions swarming inside my head as I sped home since the radio cranked up way high was not enough to drone out Mr. Monk’s indignant sobbing. He himself has not asked me those questions yet. Not that day. But they did come way sooner than I had expected.

Seriously? What kind of 6-year-old discusses religious pluralism with their parents?

Scene 2

“Why do people that were not baptized NOT believe in the same god as people that were baptized?”

The questions came. They came fast and furious. We were going to bed. Supposed to.

Not knowing how to answer this question, I decided to take the literal approach:

“Honey, you know that Muslims and the Jewish people believe in the same god that you do. [I am assuming he does for the convenience of having a conversation with him that would actually get us somewhere…] The main difference is that they do not believe that Jesus is the savior.”

Did I say it right? Is Jesus Christ the savior? I was sure I pulled that line out from one of the Christmas carols.

“Do you believe Jesus Christ is the savior?”

“No.” I said without hesitation.

I never talk down to my children. I made a conscious decision when I was pregnant with my first born and one day, all of a sudden, I realized just how heavy that burden is, to be responsible for another human being’s moral upbringing.

He turned away from me. I could see his shoulders heaving. He was quietly sobbing.

Oh my god. Was he fearing for my soul? Finally he turned to look at me in the eyes, very seriously, too serious for a 6 year old.

“Do you want me to learn that Jesus Christ is the savior? That GOD created the world?”

I explained that since his father is Catholic, and I am not, I would prefer that his father talks to him about this subject.

“No.” He said emphatically.  “I want to know whether YOU want me to learn about this.”

I started to explain why we decided to have them baptized and have them attend Religious Ed: Moral upbringing. It takes a village.

Growing up, I was never religious yet deep down I understood the expectations of me to be good. To do good. Karma. Reincarnation. It was never explicitly taught, but I knew. Everyone of us knew. It is embedded in the culture. I am certainly not suggesting Asian societies/cultures are more moral. Ha. Far from it. My theory is that the subtle permeation in daily life of the implicit belief in Karma, in What goes around, comes around, in you do reap what you sow, makes it easier to conform to a certain moral code without an explicit religious upbringing.

My husband and I were alone in the city. Far away from any “villages” that we could count on as a moral foundation for our children. We thought, Catholic Church! Besides, my husband went through the whole Religious Ed ordeal ritual thing and he turned out fine, it just seemed a natural conclusion to draw.

“I don’t need you to learn about God, which god, I am not sure. You will have to make your own decision when you grow up. But right now, I want to make sure that you can learn right from wrong. That you will know to do the right thing when we are not around.”

With a stroke of genius, I used Spiderman as an example to explain Karma.

“Remember when Peter Parker let the robber go because he was mad at the man for cheating him out of his winnings, but later the robber killed his uncle?”

I think he got it. I hope he got it. He turned his back towards me again. Silence. But I could tell from his breathing that he was not falling asleep. It was almost midnight. My child with an old soul…

“Are you worried that mommy may go to hell?”

“Not really. I don’t know.” His voice was calm.

I told him about how when his broher was his age, he came home one day after Religious Ed and asked us, “Are you and daddy going to hell?” Apparently the teacher had told him that his parents would be going to hell if they (we) don’t go to mass every Sunday.

“That was awful!” He commented. He did not sound traumatized. THAT. Seemed to be all I could have asked for that night.

How much do you tell your children when they are so young? Too little, you are sheltering them. Too much, you are burdening them. I decided I would make my one last pitch and let it be. Well, as much “let it be” as I could muster as a mother.

“I want you to remember this: there are people that will use religion as an excuse to try to get you to do things that you know are not right, to beleive things that you know are wrong. Anybody, ANYBODY, that uses religion as an excuse to talk you out of thinking for yourself…”

“… is wrong?” He finished the sentence for me.

“Yes.” I sighed and gave him a hug.

“Ok. I am going to sleep now. Good night.”

Then he was sound asleep.

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“Mom, what did you want to do when you grew up?”

My 6 year-old asked innocently. This question stirs a lot of anxiety inside me, but that’s another post, if you are unlucky enough, I may indulge myself in one day…

He’s been really concerned about his future lately. He has pondered on being an artist for a long time.

“I really would like to be rich when I grow up. So I’m going to be an artist.”

Oh, boy. I tried to think back to all of the things I have ever said to him, since he was a fetus inside me, things that I have done or not, Is it because I didn’t breast feed him long enough?, that have caused him to become so materialistic. Have we been living a life of too much comfort that somehow has instilled a sense of, oh gosh darn it, greed in the upbringing of our kids? PANIC.

Great job, mom. I said to myself.

What to do? What to say? In my mind, I could picture myself running around like a headless chicken. Wings flapping. Cluck. Cluck. Cluck. Somehow this visual image of myself as a headless chicken or a deer with widened eyes is projected quite frequently on the back walls of my eye sockets…

“Hmmm. I don’t think being an artist will necessarily make you rich.”

How honest should we be with our children? Once again I wondered. Once again I had to make an uninformed split-second decision purely based on intuition, yup, the same one that helped me every time I purchased lottery tickets…

“Van Gogh was very poor when he was alive. I don’t think he made a lot of money by selling his paintings until after he died.”

Way to go, mom, for dashing your child’s hopes and dreams. Why don’t you just tell him to dream about being an accountant. Or an actuary. Don’t ever tell them to reach for the stars now Mary Poppins…

“Not even a house?” A look of concern crept up his face. “I just want to be rich so I can buy a house when I grow up.”

Ooops. Failed by overthinking again. Fortunately I am a champion in the sports of back paddling…

“Oh, yeah. Of course you will be able to buy a house. I would say though, you should do whatever that makes you happy and not worry so much about buying a house now.”

“Oh good. Because I was thinking that if I cannot be an artist, I would like to be a musician so I can be rich and buy a house.”

Oh, boy.  Here we go again…

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Act. 1 “The Middle Number”

Mr. Monk wondered aloud in the back of the car,

“What is in the middle of all the numbers?”

“Uh. Honey. We can’t know that since we don’t know what the ‘last number’ is.”  Taking a deep breath, I was all too scared of explaining the concept of infinity to a 6 year old while speeding towards the gymnastics practice.  (Not for me. I can only wish. For my oldest).

“Well, I think it is ZERO. Because you know, there are negative 1, 2, 3…”


Act 2. “Black and White Chicken”

We were having Boston Market.   To my kids, Boston Market is one of the greatest treats, almost like Thanksgiving, only better.  Well, better for me at least.  Sometimes I am embarrassed by their excitement when I say, “We are going to have Boston Market!”  So easy.  Almost like taking candy from a baby…

I commented on how it was a great deal to pay $2 more for all white meat since nobody likes dark meat especially the thighs. 

“I wonder how they found black and white chicken!” marvelled Mr. Monk

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“Mommy, is tweeting bad?”

June 24, 2009 mark my word: twitter will doom us all

Tweet Nope. Didn’t make this up. This came up in my conversation with my 6 year-old, Mr. Monk, in the car today. Most of our conversations happen in the car now, it seems. Could Mr. Monk be that smart so as to figure out that when I am driving, I am cornered and hence have […]


The Ability to be Oblivious OR Is there a manual for the multicutural world we envision?

June 16, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet Warning: The following text contains ruminations on the color of our skins. If you feel uncomfortable discussing skin colors, wish that people would just stop obsessing over skin colors and go on with their lives, or believe that the insistence on talking about the colors of our skin makes the originator of the conversation […]

I GTalked my kid to ask him what he would like for breakfast today…

May 23, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet As over-thinking, ironically introspective, neurotic, obsessively over-analytical as I am, this incident strikes me as seminal. SEMINAL. Mark it on the calendar. We have all seen those cartoons, parodying the increasing importance of texting in the life of teens and even preteens, showing kids texting each other while sitting next to each other on […]


Parenthood makes me feel dumb

May 6, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet It is a cliche that children do not come with manuals. No education prepares one for parenthood. Sometimes I wonder whether a Jeopardy champion would make a better parent since they seem to be better equipped with answering completely random questions. The series of questions and free associations my 6 year-old child fires from […]

Ever woner the worst question your child could ever ask you?

February 14, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet I found out tonight. I actually have never even pondered this. But when I heard it from my 6-year-old today, I knew, in my heart, this has got to be the worst question a child could ever ever ask of you, the parent. Not “Am I going to die?” Not “What happened to (insert: […]

Towards the discussion of race with a 6 year-old…

February 11, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet Every day is a trial and error in my effort to bring my kids up the “right” way… Here is an incident happened last month which I have been chewing over and over: My 6 year-old came home excited one day to tell me all about what he had learned at school about MLK, […]

Questions from your kids: How many people are there in the world?

January 13, 2009 random

Tweet Here is your answer, as of January 13, 2009 (US Time) U.S. 305,610,552 World 6,753,669,055 This is pretty neat, courtesy of U.S. Census Bureau’s Pop Clocks. At my boys’ insistence, here is the counter part: Statistics on death… (Yes, my kids are naturally morbid, considering how many comic books and movies inspired by comic books […]