One of the favorite pastimes of all children-dom is to follow parents around and ask questions. After about five minutes of interrogation, most of us become Mr. Owl from the Tootsie Pop commercial:
"Three, the answer is three, ok? Be gone!"
Take care in these moments; stupid as the questions might seem, they are heartfelt nine times out of ten. Our children are truly curious about the world and their place in it, and parents can't afford to lose their "go-to" status with their children.
Be ready for the questions your children don't know how to ask, the ones that trouble them the most:
1. "Why did you name me _?"
Names are arguably the most defining aspect of a young person's life; they want to know how you decided on a word that would capture them and all they are for their entire life; the single most crucial distinction and identifier they will ever have. No pressure, parents. If the only explanation you have is that you "liked it," they will likely walk away unsatisfied. Give them more of the name selection process. Assure them that the name they chose felt right from the moment you called them by it.
2. "Do you love me?"
This question is just tragic; it shouldn't have to be asked. There is no better gauge of your parenting than hearing your child to summon the courage to ask this. Get ahead of this question by never letting it be an issue. Say it out loud, every day, and show them, out loud, every day. Never let this be just understood.
3. "Do you forgive me?"
It's painfully easy to handle our children's mistakes the wrong way. When they don't do as you say, when they break something or make a mess or insert one of a million other things here, anger comes first and fast. Do that enough, and children will believe they've done permanent damage. Allow that feeling to fester long enough, and children become distant. To them, asking this question will only bring out more anger. Forgive them wholly and quickly; they're only kids.
4. "Are you proud of me?"
Children need to know that they are accomplishing things that matter to you, which is something completely separate from your love for them. Find out where their passion lies, and become their greatest cheerleader. It shouldn't matter if they love basketball or chess; just encourage the best in them. Do not give in to the temptation to base your pride on competition, whether your child is better than others. Taking pride in your children is never about anyone but them.
The time for personal responsibility and independence arrives faster than it might seem, and it can be scary for kids unsure of themselves, especially when everything around them says they should be able to handle it. It would be unwise to take the struggle away from them, but assuring your children they are doing right and choosing right will make all the difference in the world. Choosing right now means choosing right later becomes easier.
Will they choose right when they make new friends?
Will they choose right as they search the web?
Begin to date?
Go to college?
Set their steps toward the best places now, while they're young. Answering the questions they can't ask will prove to be among the most influential things we can do.