The 7 Hardest-to-Answer Questions My Kids Have Ever Asked… And 2 Surprisingly Easy Ones

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like xoJane,, and The Huffington Post. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. Her dream is to someday finish her almost-done novel and get some sleep. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.


  1. Kate Bartolotta says:

    When my five-year-old asked me what fellatio was, that was one of the toughest questions. As it turned out, he was asking about “Filet O’ Fish” or “fellatio fish” as he called it, since he had not eaten at McDonald’s and had no frame of reference for it.

    Great article, Joanna!

  2. Great piece, Joanna. One of my former employees recently posted on Facebook that on vacation in the UK his three young sons had discovered the rules of European television were different. That changed the dinner conversation a bit. My most conflicted memory on this thread was when Ashley was around six years old and was watching the news with us, she asked, “What did President Clinton do with that cigar?” I think that may have been the only instance where our household full honesty policy had to be deferred.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Yes, I did not explain what “f**king like gorillas” actually meant. I said that he was using a that phrase to be shocking. Luckily they didn’t ask “What is that?” but “Why did he say that” so I felt okay not fully explaining.

  3. So true. Just last night we were driving home from minor league baseball game and my daughter was explaining how girls can play baseball and softball and my son was arguing of course so I tell the Jackie Robinson story, for the next 30 minutes they talked gender god time race..the highlight was this exchange: girl “but go created everything” boy “no not freedom. Martin Luther king invented freedom…but he probably got the idea from god.” Beat. Girl: “god created butt cracks.” And on and on. My mom died when I was 21 and I’ve always been open about it with the kids. The more we entrust them to be able to handle the facts of life, the less guarded we are in answering their questions, the conversations can be mind blowing. Love this list. Explaining sexy has proven far more difficult than any other topic.

  4. Great post!
    I have a friend with two young sons who have basically adopted me as their uncle/jungle gym. They ask me all kinds of questions a lot because their parents are separated and their mother is a lesbian, so when I come over I get a lot of the “man” questions.
    One of the most interesting conversations was when I told the older boy that I used to be a girl. Surprisingly he was totally unfazed after a couple initial questions about why I was a girl and how things worked, he finished his questions with, “Can we watch Dr. Who now?”
    Kids are amazing and I will definitely refer back to this article when I face these questions from the boys and in the future my own kids.

    Stay excellent,

  5. Loved this!

    Luckily for me there are kid’s books and youtube videos on MLK and complicated stuff like that…! And now my son is almost 13 yo and reading “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and HE had to explain to ME what a “trireme” is….

    Out of the mouths of babes! TG for Google!

  6. Just wonderful Joanna. I have to say, we are all wondering how it would be to grow up amidst conversations like this instead of conversations that weren’t conversations at all. “They did the best they could?” You’re doing better, madam. So much better.

  7. I did teaching biological sex from basically ever with my older two. Adding as they grew up, my older son is now 14.He understands the puberty side (normal, meant to be weird, go with it), the appeal of sexual relationships (now he’s older) and why people do it in the first place – and that wanting to is going to get more and more normal. Also he knows the consequences.

    My main goal was to get the facts in before the hormones beat me to it! I hope it’s working. I know he’s very pragmatic about adolescence, accepting of the changes and experience even when its horrible. We discussed things like AIDS, HIV, condoms etc around age 12. So ‘preventing pregnancy’ wasn’t the only point and the girl on the pill wasn’t a good enough reason not to use one.

    My 12yo daughter used to watch those baby shows on TLC with me, from age 2. She knows where babies come from – they both do – and she knows that sometimes they are cut out too (my 3 were). As a seven year old she used to talk about how she wasn’t sure which option to choose when she got old and had babies – naturally hurts more in the moment, caesar hurts more after (this part of fact we taught as well).

    Add to this money – we explain financial constraints – and costs of living as a family, so they know it doesn’t necessarily come easy to pay for.

    My older kids understand their feelings are normal, out of proportion and going to be all over the place for the next little while.

    I have an added weapon in a 2yo brother, who shows him the daily reality of actually having a baby. Real-life version of those ‘look after mechanical baby’ classes I see in American movies, I guess. Hopefully it imprints in my 12yo daughter too.

    My son knows he was the most amazing accidental pregnancy (not mistake – accident/unplanned but the best accident we’ve ever had). It’s vital to explain the difference to them between mistake and accident, by the way – I was always told I was born due to a mistake, and that hurts no matter how much my parents want me now. My son has been told he is the unplanned saver of our lives, considering where his father and I were headed at the time – something to be proud of, I hope. He’s glad we had it – but also judges my poor choices LOL. I’d rather him do that, though.

    Anyway making it a normal part of life, and something they learn in stages like anything else has helped. They are grounded about it, they still get embarrassed when we talk about it (now the hormones are here) but they got the details, the basics, before it was too embarrassing for them to pay attention to!

    As for the other ones – on same sex marriage, the same thing. They know, men fall in love with women. Men fall for men, women fall for women, it’s just how it is. My daughter learnt this at about age 3, and spent about a year telling me off for not giving her two mothers, because ‘that would be good, we could all be girls, she’d like it like that’. She went through a stage of finding it ‘weird’ a few years back and we talked our way through it – explaining weird ‘for her’ was not weird in life. It’s about what each person wants, if she doesn’t want a female partner then she doesn’t have to have one – and that’s cool, the next person has the same freedom of choice. My son is ambivalent.

    I think with a lot of these big issues ‘ambivalence’ about the ideas themselves is a good thing. It means no judgment – whatever. It is what it is. That isn’t always a bad thing.

    Death is harder. My son accepts the biological concept because he’s a straight up and down scientist at heart. And he’s fine with that. My daughter less so, but that’s an existential experience for her to go through. She is free to find whatever feels like it fits her most comfortably. Explaining the why is quite hard. You can explain the mechanics but like most people the concept of the ‘inside me’ – consciousness, where does that go – and why does it have to – that’s a hard one.

  8. I recently read a review of a motel that frequent and readers were sternly warned that the motel was next door to a strip club & they shouldn’t stay at this very nice motel because of its location and how damaging it could be to their kids. My kids are grown now, but years ago we were in the car and happened to stop at a light in front of a strip club. My kids, aged ~8 & 6 asked me what kind of club it was. I thought for a minute and told them, “some people like to watch other people take off their clothes, and that’s what they do in that club.” Silence for a minute, and then, “Can we stop and get a snack?” Damaging? It all depends on how the parent handles it.


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