What happens when your toddler asks awkward questions

IMG_2204Last week my daughter and I went to TJ Maxx and I, being extremely pregnant, had to pee upon arrival.  We went into a two stall women’s restroom and I could smell immediately that it was occupied.  Nina, being a typical two year old, didn’t seem to notice or care.

I took her into the stall and suddenly, from the next stall over, came the sounds of a person who has clearly eaten the wrong kind of lunch.  Nina, yet again a typical two year old, shouts with surprise, “What is that?”  I shush her, but the noises continue and Nina keeps inquiring.  The lady from the stall over, with serious strain in her voice, answers her, “Honey, I’m taking a sh*t.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  And I’ve wondered lately why I didn’t.

There is much about the world that Nina doesn’t understand right now, and I think overall my husband and I are pretty good about explaining what we can to her in a no-nonsense way.  But the incident in the public bathroom made me realize that there is still quite a bit that we sugarcoat or avoid or just plain lie about.  But if she is honest enough to be curious (as all toddlers tend to be), then why are we not brave enough to quench her curiosity?

She knows what pooping is; she tells me within minutes when she’s done it herself.  So in this case, I don’t think I was hiding anything from her.  I was trying to avoid embarrassment for myself and for the lady in the stall over, which I guess was the polite thing to do.  But why are we more concerned with etiquette than we are with truth–especially when it comes to our children?

I’m not implying that we should sacrifice the feelings of others in order to be blunt with our kids, but what harm would it have done for me to say something like, “It’s the lady in the other stall.  She’s not feeling well.”  Would that have crossed a line?  Considering how the lady herself answered Nina, I’d say she probably would have been okay with it.  In fact, I think that I might have embarrassed her more by ignoring Nina’s questions and prolonging the awkwardness.

The bottom line is this:  I think it might be better to face the truth together with children, than to ignore their inquiries and leave them feeling yet again like the world is one big unanswerable question that they’re too small to navigate.  Being able to ask a question derived from authentic curiosity and receive an honest answer from those she loves will surely mold my daughter into a more confident woman than having to run out of a bathroom with our heads down because we’re afraid to address the reality of smells and sounds right in front of our faces.





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