What Does Sexy Mean?

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

It's a tough enough question to answer when it's posed by an adult, but how do you answer it when your six-year-old wants to know what sexy means? Or how do you explain that oldie-but-goodie — why is the sky blue? If a kid asked me that, I'd probably invent something about unicorns and oceans, but I certainly wouldn't know how to answer it truthfully in grade school vernacular. Author Wendell Jamieson wrote down the zillions of questions spilling out of his son's mouth and got answers from all sorts of real people. What's the weirdest thing your kids have ever asked you? And what are the questions you actually wouldn't want to answer with the whole truth?

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I'm writing a book about global youth viewpoints, with about 1000 responses so far. The first question for kids is, "If you could ask a question of the wisest person on the planet, what would you ask her or him?" The most common responses, world-wide, are "What's the meaning of life? What happens after death? Why is there inequality between rich and poor?" If you know youth who would like to be included in my book, please email me for the 10 questions. gkimball-at-csuchico.edu. Thanks, Gayle Kimball, Ph.D.

Sent by Gayle Kimball | 4:05 PM | 9-3-2007

My philosophy teacher in college told the class that he made a point of lying to his son when the son asked him questions. I remember thinking that this was a cruel betrayal of the trust a child places in his parent. I realize now that my teacher's intent was to train his son to not rely on appeal to authority to get answers, because that can produce so much bogus information. It's a laudable goal, but I think he took the wrong approach. It's natural for a child to ask a parent for answers to most questions at a young age, because the parent is the source of everything: food, shelter, security, and of course knowledge. It would be better to take the child along on a quest to find the answer from a reliable source. I also remember noticing very clearly in my youth when I was being patronized by adults. I found it extremely insulting and today I make a special effort to treat children's questions and comments with respect, even if they seem extremely foolish. I never make fun at their expense with other adults in the room, thinking that it's all going over their heads, as I saw Johnny Carson do several times with bright young guests on his TV show. Kids notice more than we think they do.

Sent by Jim Rodarmel | 7:22 PM | 9-3-2007

my 5 yeard old son asked my if a goose flew into a black hole, could it get out? i said no. he then asked "what if it was just watching from the sidewalk?" and i wished i was five again.

Sent by ted | 10:27 PM | 9-3-2007

My answer to the listener submitted question "What is purple plus nine?" : Pineurple!

Sent by Stacey Hockaday | 6:21 PM | 9-4-2007

I don't know if this counts, but when my sisters and I were kids, my sister Gail told our family that her friend's grandmother had 'burcolous, my mother corrected her saying tuburcolous, to which my sister replied,"No she has only one.

Sent by Jerry | 9:18 PM | 9-5-2007

I agree with Jim R (above post) about not lying to your child or making fun of their questions. I didn't hear the show, but as far as left-field questions from children, one could always respond, "That doesn't even make sense" or even "I don't know; what do you think?"

Sent by kathryn | 7:58 AM | 9-6-2007

Speaking from my experience as a life-long student, I can advise everybody to be honest and not to try to give them answers, but look for the answers together. The process of looking for an answer is more important than having an answer.

Sent by Lisa Ma | 12:07 PM | 9-7-2007

When my son starts in on asking questions I frequently start my response with a question for him, but not always a qualifying question, sometimes it's philosophical to get him to probe his own thoughts. I also compliment him on his ability to make insightful observations or think creatively. I agree with being 100% honest, but it often requires a follow up discussion putting the answer in perspective. I believe this honesty, at the earliest age, is what will keep them speaking to us - even into adolesence.

Sent by David Gates | 12:11 PM | 9-13-2007

Today my 5 year old asked me, "When all the people in the world die, will the dinosaurs come back?" and "Who was the first person alive after the last dinosaur died?"

Sent by kcl | 1:55 PM | 2-11-2008