Answering Our Kids' Hard Questions

Posted by: 
Laura Spiegel

“I’m all mixed up!” my daughter exclaims. Her arms shoot upward toward the mesh of the tent. The stars shine down, their tiny lights glowing more fervently by the minute.

We are camping in the stillness of our backyard, and my daughter is eager for clarification.

“What does God look like?”

My response is feeble at best.

Minutes later, she decides that God is part elephant, part flamingo. A giant pink creature who stands on one leg and sports a trunk. Satisfied for now, my daughter rests. A soft glow covers her cheeks, and she is silent.

I’m increasingly finding myself unable to answer my seven-year-old’s questions. It’s a bit unsettling, isn’t it? When our kids ask great big questions that cause even Siri and Google to shrug.

What does God look like?

When will the coronavirus end?

What will happen when school starts again?

Why did anyone think slavery was okay?

What if it’s still happening today?

How will I die?

What if I’m an old lady, and my family is gone, and I’m all alone?

When will there be a cure for cystic fibrosis?

As a mother, my instinct is to protect my children by offering words of unending hope. But as my young daughter and son grow, I know that they need to be okay with hard truths. With uncertainty. With not having all the answers.

Sometimes, the best I can do to is to pause, sigh, and say, “I don’t know.” When I can, I try to add a “Let’s find out,” or in the case of many of the above questions, “I hope that…” followed by a “What do you think?”

Which is how we got to God being half elephant, half flamingo at 11 PM on a starry night.

Hours before our campout, I spoke with a children’s hospital who is training physicians on how to deliver bad news in a supportive and compassionate way. As so many of us parents of kids with special medical, developmental, or behavioral health care needs know, the delivery of a child’s diagnosis is everything. The words, the tone, and the body language of the messenger are so. very. important.

I remember our messenger’s phone call like it was yesterday. His preparation was nil, his delivery poor, and his suggestions for next steps ridiculous. Turns out Google is not the best starting point for accurate information on cystic fibrosis or any other complex medical condition for that matter…

Fortunately, a second messenger came on his heels. The pulmonologist at our local children’s hospital took my hands and said the words that have shaped my outlook for the past seven years. “Your daughter can live a long and full life. It’s my job as her physician and yours as her parents to help make that happen.”
In that moment, she reached through my wall of tears and enabled me to hear – to really hear - the rest of her message. She acknowledged the uncertainties associated with cystic fibrosis and shared the scientific advancements that had already occurred and that were planned for the foreseeable future.

“There is never a good time to be diagnosed with a chronic disease. But if there ever was, that time is now.”

She gave us the history. She gave us the science. And she gave us hope.

She also reminded us that we are not alone. We are in this together. 

I want to emulate that same approach with my children as they grow into astute observers of our world and ask increasingly difficult questions.

Nothing is certain about life. As COVID-19 stretches on… As our country continues to battle systemic racism… As adults disagree and the questions from our children get harder and harder… I realize that my kids aren’t the only ones who need to get comfortable with hard truths and uncertainty.

I do, too.

I will always wish I had the answers or knew where I could go to find them. Better yet, how I could make them happen myself.

That’s not always possible. So I’m trying to get better at acknowledging when I don’t have an answer. At leaning into tough questions and demonstrating to my kids that despite the uncertainty, we will approach our world with compassion and with hope. And we will be in it together.

Is that good enough for now?

I don’t know, but I hope that it’s a start. What do you think?

 

              Help Others Live STRONGER and LONGER-

                                                                                            


 

Laura Spiegel lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two children, one of whom has cystic fibrosis. She loves a good book, a great glass of wine, and connecting with others who nurture the blessings alongside the battles. Laura is the Founder and President of Paint Her in Color, a web site that offers emotional support to parents of children with special health care needs. She can be reached at https://www.paintherincolor.com, laura@paintherincolor.com, https://www.facebook.com/paintherincolor, or https://twitter.com/her_color.

 

 

 

***Views expressed in the CFLF Blog are those of the bloggers themselves and not necessarily of the Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation*** 

 

***Please speak with your physician before making any changes to your CF management***

 

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