Are you beautiful, asked my little grandson. He was three at the time and thankfully had not yet reached the judgemental stage. That comes later when he’s in grade 1 or two. Hopefully by that time he will have a solid grounding in family values.
Lordy, I thought, how can I respond? It was a question asked in the spirit of genuine enquiry and deserved to be replied to in kind. I could have said, ‘I was pretty once,’ but to paraphrase Hartley ‘the past is a foreign country’ to Eden. He wouldn’t have known what to do with it. Whether it’s yesterday or five minutes ago, Eden wouldn’t have understood the reference nor would he be interested.
I could have responded, as the adults in my day did ‘beauty is as beauty does’ meaning you will be judged on your behaviour not your looks. It was said to keep us children in our place (my parents never said it). But whatever the truth of that cliché it’s still not the answer to Eden’s question. Having quickly thought of and discarded a bunch of responses, in the end I decided to compromise with: I’m not beautiful on the outside, Eden, but I’m nice on the inside, which when I settled down and thought of it, I had chosen a nicer way of saying beauty is as beauty does, oh dear. Still, that answer seemed to have satisfied Eden for the moment.
Where do babies come from was relatively easy. When my children asked me those questions I would gave an answer that suited their age (it was never ‘ask your father’ unless it was a question about fishing or cars or other things that I had no interest in or knew anything about.) In my panic, I had forgotten that if I didn’t know the answer to a question I used to answer with, ‘I don’t know, but I will find out for you.’
The thing is that children never stop asking awkward questions and it’s important to be pre-prepared. Thankfully I’m a grandma now and don’t get questioned too often. But yesterday when I was supervising him in his bath, the four year old Eden wanted to know why soap bubbles popped. I wasn’t sure why, but I said something about the bubble being really thin, like a balloon (Eden loves balloons) only bubbles are thinner. And that both of them have air inside which makes them pop easily. Oh dear again. I think I’ll go and have a Bex and a good lie down. When I get up I will reinstate my plan of action taken from the good old days.