Question from our reader: I am a mother of a ten-year-old. And just like any child, Daria was very eager to know and learn all sorts of things from a young age. She would ask a million questions: why does it snow, how does snow form, how about dinosaurs, when did they live and why did they die, about meteors and the space, how hot lava is, are stories truthful… But the other day, she asked us: “How are children made? Where do all new babies come from?” “Where does this question come from? Who taught you to speak like this? The stork brings them of course” – her father answered without raising his head from the phone. “The stork…” she said thoughtfully and went into the other room. Not long after that conversation, she came and said confidently, “It is not nice to lie.” Since then, she has somehow withdrawn and hardly talks to us at all. She doesn’t ask questions anymore.
Answer from our life expert: Dear Daria’s worried mother, you should be happy with your daughter! She shows an intense curiosity about the world, and that, by all means, is a great joy! The world should be explored, observed, discovered… Although I am not that young, of course, one cannot be so wise and young; I still find so many undiscovered beauties waiting to be discovered! We alone are beautiful, with our body, our endless mind, which can be so powerful, only if we allow it.
But let me return to your problem, my dear Daria’s mother! The question ‘what is this’ is the basis of any scientific interest. Only children are not familiar with the concept of limits and putting brakes on their curiosity. They are unaware that certain questions are ‘allowed’ and certain are not. They just want to know everything. The search for knowledge is naturally embedded in every child. Still, when kids enter the realm of ‘forbidden questions’ and encounter improper reactions from their parents, a process of re-examination begins. They conclude that something is obviously wrong with the question and have done something wrong. For example, children cannot distinguish between the questions ‘where babies come from’ and ‘how lava is formed’ but they are clearly making some obvious mistakes. That’s what they think to themselves. Their desire for knowledge is wicked; it is somehow dangerous, and slowly that natural curiosity impulse starts being controlled, narrowed. When you don’t know what is ok and what is not ok to be asked, it is better to be silent!
Sounds so naïve and unbelievable that a story about one stork could affect a child in that way. It’s not as if you are killing their general interest to explore things, right? Well, to be honest, I’m convinced they wouldn’t have been so narrow if they weren’t smothered by countless taboos like the one in your example. The taboo on sexual knowledge, as if our own body should be scary, shrouded in shame, doing some shameful things, for example, creating babies, is counterproductive! Oh God, what an indecency! Children must not know anything about that! We keep our own nature as top secret.
So, what should we do, tell our children everything? – you may ask. I’m not going to persuade you to do the opposite, but I would just tell you that they are so successful in exposing irrationalities and breaking imposed taboos. In your case, Daria immediately doubts the story and stops believing in its probability, and as a result, she, unfortunately, stops trusting you as her parents. When you lie, and your lies are exposed, which inevitably happens, that trust in your integrity and intellectual authority will be shattered forever into a million pieces. If you lie about one thing, who will guarantee that you will not lie again!? We are causing intellectual and moral damage to our children.
One last thing: I wonder shouldn’t children be curious about the things they are naturally curious about? Should we suppress their inherent impulse for knowledge? Of course, we should when it comes to themes that are not virtuous or morally pleasing enough for the community to be disturbed. It has to be that way!
P.S. Just to make things clear, the last two sentences have an ironic tone.