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To wish parents in 'traditional' families would explain to their children that families come in all shapes and sizes?

(145 Posts)
acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 16:23:17

Just overheard yet another friend ask DS (4) where his daddy is. DS hasn't even asked about his absent father yet, i've raised him alone since birth.

I realize it's a perfectly normal question for a child to ask, however all his friends parents know he doesn't have a daddy and one in particular has asked him several times in front of the other parent. Is it really too much to expect a parent to explain to their kids that all families are different and some children don't have a daddy/mummy and that it might be a little insensitive to keep asking?
I do think it's a case of just not thinking it's necessary as they themselves are not in that situation so it doesn't affect them.
I know two young children who have both lost their mothers too and it's just so upsetting for the children to keep being asked about them.

So AIBU to expect parents to explain these things to their children in order to spare the feelings of the children affected, not to mention the awkward questions they can raise for single parents?

Greensleeves Mon 04-Mar-13 19:45:58

It does seem a bit unreasonable that you want others to broach something with their children that you don't want to with yours.

However it is different I think - explaining something hypothetical to a child isn't the same as tackling something that is personal and could cause your son to feel sad about his father.

I would probably talk to ds sooner rather than later anyway, as it is less painful to grow up knowing something from a young age than to find out about it suddenly. The fact is that his father does exist but is absent, and you can't shield him from it. Other children asking questions is annoying, but it is a reality, it would be even if everyone had these conversations earlier and you just need to accept it IMO.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 19:50:23

"I would probably talk to ds sooner rather than later anyway, as it is less painful to grow up knowing something from a young age than to find out about it suddenly"


I think it is like adoption, the great late revelation is so much worse than always knowing, so your understanding of it grows and matures, but it is never sprung on you as this new information.

TolliverGroat Mon 04-Mar-13 19:51:56

DD1 is 4. She has trouble grasping fully that I am not DH's Mummy, nor am I MIL's Mummy (even though she knows that MIL is DH's Mummy), and she's obviously had a lot of reinforcement around that. I don't expect the abstract discussions we've had about different family dynamics to sink in any more thoroughly (also MIL lost my copy of The Family Book, which I used to read a lot to DS. Grrr.).

acceptableinthe80s Mon 04-Mar-13 19:54:15

Ok, I can see how others may not choose to read books on this subject to their children. I suppose i have because i didn't want my son to feel any different from children with two parents, therefore it was important to me to make him aware of diversity. I realize it's not everyone's priority and for that IABU.

I still don't see how i'm picking and choosing though. I'm perfectly happy to discuss ds's dad if he wants to. It's quite common for children with completely absent parents not to ask about them as often they've never met/can't remember them. I'm sure as ds gets older he'll have questions but not at the moment it would seem.

I've been told they do discuss family dynamics in school through books etc, and i still think it's important to discuss these things but like i said i can see why some people go with the talk about it as it happens approach.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 19:57:26

I am sure if you know good titles that your school will be happy to receive donations.

NumericalMum Mon 04-Mar-13 20:07:30

My DC has grown up in a very diverse nursery in London so I guess she has known a lot of this but has friends with no mummies, daddies etc and I do tell her that two mummies or two daddies could have children too. But she is 4 and questions are pretty common and annoying
And some days she asked the same ones about 70 times. I sometimes think she just likes the sound of her own voice!

Zavi Mon 04-Mar-13 20:24:27

YABU - because, whilst not unusual, your circumstances are not mainstream.

Let me ask you this: have you taught your DS about different sexualities, different religions, different diets, different school choices etc etc. Do you get my point?

I think what you need to do is to teach your DS how to manage when people inevitably ask him questions about his father, or about his family set-up.

The onus is on you to adapt, not others.

Teapot13 Mon 04-Mar-13 21:06:07

You have obviously put a lot of thought into how you discuss this with your son, and I would also want to shield my child from the fact that the father does not want contact with him. However, if other children are asking about it, I find it hard to believe that your son doesn't wonder. I would think it would be good to bring it up sooner rather than later -- he might be worried but not know what to say to you.

AmandaPayne Mon 04-Mar-13 21:21:59

There are a lot of forms of diversity around, family diversity is obviously important to you. But as Zavi points out, there is religion, diet, sexuality, disability.

I don't think that these things necessarily sink in where there isn't day to day applicability to their lives. Over the summer, we went to the Paralympics numerous times with DD1 (then 3.5). We talked a lot about disability. I thought that she understood, at least as much as she could at that age. Didn't stop her asking me very, very loudly "Why doesn't that lady have an arm" in a cafe last week. I whispered to her to remember the conversations we'd had about how some people are born differently, etc, etc. Later that same day, we were in a shop with a man whose legs had been amputated. Cue similar v loud question.

Added to which, as others have said, at this age they get all sorts of stuff in a muddle. DD1 asked me today whether she and her sister were in my tummy at the same time, despite being fully aware she is two years older.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 21:28:08

^^ Yes.

My DS has known my double amputee friend since he was born. Still didn't stop him saying LOUDLY when he was four "Mummy, where are her legs?"

And DD still thinks that my SIL and I might both have been in my mum's tummy at the same time. I and my mother are white, SIL is Ghanaian!

difficultpickle Mon 04-Mar-13 21:41:05

4 is a bit young but ds gets this all the time and he is now nearly 9. The child that was worse was in ds's school year but nearly a year older than ds and went on and on about ds not having a father. Parents did nothing despite knowing the circumstances and child would make lots of nasty comments and encourage others to do the same. Ds is at a different school now and the children there are curious but polite although I know it is something that deeply concerns ds.

LunaticFringe Mon 04-Mar-13 21:46:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

superstarheartbreaker Mon 04-Mar-13 21:46:38

I think it IS the parents responsibilty to talk to the children about this kind of thing. Gosh ; it is very presumptious to assume that schools will cover it. I think there is a bit of a bubble mentality. I have seen a thread on here with a mum berating Jaqueline Wilson for 'always' protraying divorced parents etc. Shows a complete 'it won't happen to out little Waltons' mentality. YANBU op.

difficultpickle Mon 04-Mar-13 21:48:26

I would expect parents to talk to their dcs but unfortunately lots (including some of my relatives) leave all sorts to the school to deal with.

difficultpickle Mon 04-Mar-13 21:49:33

I'd add that ds has had to put up with not just the querying questions but also the 'what is wrong with you that you don't see your dad' comments too. They are just plain nasty and from children old enough to understand the hurt that causes.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 21:52:58

Absolutely parents should talk about things, everything they are asked about in fact. I am prepared to tell my children about all sorts of family set-ups, and have. Indeed within my own family and friends I don't have much choice!

But equally, no matter how much we talk about things, our children will ask questions. So the OP does need to prepare her son for that, too.

MammaMedusa Mon 04-Mar-13 21:54:19

Should add, I am responding to the OP having a four-year-old ask. Bullying and older children is very different.

Morloth Mon 04-Mar-13 21:57:04

We have had this conversation a couple of times when DS1 has brought up people who live in different set ups to ours. He has always been told that families/people come in all different arrangements/shapes/colours whatever and that it is all good.

At almost 9 he has pretty much grown out of the loud, awkward question age. Though at 3 I can remember him asking a friend's dad why he had black skin, and also asking a man we met who had no legs why that was. Both people were kind to a small child who was just interested and told him why. Now of course he knows that it is impolite to ask random strangers personal questions.

I can't say that I have ever chosen books that talk specifically about any subject really.

While our immediate nuclear family is Mum, Dad and 2 Kids - our extended family varies enormously.

I don't think I have ever actually brought the subject up, it has always been at DS1's instigation - other people's personal arrangement don't actually have that much bearing on our day to day lives.

Both DH and I are 'whatever floats your boat' type people. I just don't care that much how other people live as long as nobody is being abused etc.

Ginebra Mon 04-Mar-13 21:59:35

have had some outrageous questions from a four year old a couple of years back. my dc confused and hurt. stupid conservative family training their kids up to be conservative conformists

EmmaGellerGreen Mon 04-Mar-13 22:25:24

DS is 5 and I would discuss this if he asked me. We and everyone we know are "traditional families" - so it hasn't come up. It would be a fairly meaningless discussion really unless and until it becomes real to him. Maybe there are children from non-traditional families in his class, how would I know?

MidniteScribbler Tue 05-Mar-13 00:58:02

YABU on several matters. Children ask questions, no matter how often things are explained to them. So you are assuming that it's the parents who aren't telling them, when it's simply kids being kids. They also try and understand information within their own knowledge. I had one little girl in my class a couple of years ago who was the DD of a same sex couple. She kept asking other students where their "other mummy" was. She knew perfectly well that other families were different, but she still asked, because it was 'normal' to her to have two mothers. She wasn't malicious, she was simply trying to reference her normality with that of others. She's older now, and doesn't ask anymore. She's incorporated the knowledge in to her own understanding. It's how children learn.

Also, you are expecting other parents to stop their child asking very developmentally normal questions, because you are choosing not to give your son the information he needs to be able to deal with the question effectively. And I say this as the single mother of a donor conceived child. My DS is already being told about his "normal" so that as he grows, there won't be the shock of learning the information, he will simply know. Part of your upset at this can also be coming from your embarrassment at the situation. I made the decision when I had DS that I would be open and honest about his conception. I have no problems telling anyone that he is donor conceived, as if I'm embarrassed and trying to come up with a 'cover story' then he will feel that it is something to be embarrassed about. I want him to feel very confident saying "I don't have a daddy, I have a donor" when asked. Part of acknowledging that there are different types of families includes acknowledging that there is simply nothing wrong with how your much loved child came in to the world, and to do that you need to start being open and honest about it yourself.

AmberLeaf Tue 05-Mar-13 01:38:40

I think the child asking the question is 6 not 4?


If it were a one off, then yes fair enough, inquisitive minds an all that. But to keep on asking and in front of her Mum, YANBU to expect the Mum to speak to her DD about it.

I actually think it's a bit rude of her Mum to not say something.

Kytti Tue 05-Mar-13 03:12:41

I remember a similar toe-curling moment when my dd asked where her friend's Daddy was, she actually said, "when's your Daddy coming home from work?" Her friend replied "my Daddy lives with his other family and doesn't have a job." DD just said "Oh" and they happily carried on. I think the grown-ups were more embarrassed, well, I was.

I've always tried to explain different family dynamics, but at 4 I think you're expecting a bit much. It's nothing personal, small children are defined by their own lives, and if that means they have a Mum and Dad, they assume everyone else does too.

Gay40 Tue 05-Mar-13 13:52:08

I do think that you have to prepare children to answer questions like this, or you are putting them on the back foot (see my "stepmum" conversation) and little ones can't blag it like adults.

For example, someone asked my DD if her mum was a lesbian. She shrugged and said she didn't know. We had not used that word around her so she genuinely didn't know. When she reported this conversation to us, and we explained, the next time she was asked she just said "yep...what of it" nonchalantly. (End of conversation).
It's about equipping your own kids too for the curve ball questions.

KellyElly Tue 05-Mar-13 15:52:14

OP, I just explained to my DD (she's three) from a very young age that some children have a daddy and mummy in the same house and some children (like her) just live with mummy. She does see her dad and has from time-to-time asked why daddy doesn't live with us and I just say because daddy and mummy aren't together, but we both love you very much. To be honest, I would never have thought to address this situation if we weren't in it, which is probably why you are finding this is the case with 'traditional' families.

As long as you are always upfront and honest with your child in simple language they understand then they can answer those sorts of questions from other children. For example DD has a half sister from a relationship her dad had before me, she sees her every other Sunday, but obviously doesn't have a 'traditional' sibling relationship. When she was talking about her sister and an older child said 'she's not your real sister, she doesn't live at your house', DD said 'don't be silly, of course she's my sister, we've just got different mummys and she lives with her mummy and I live with my mummy'. She had the knowledge to answer the question because it's something we openly talk about, albeit in very simplistic terms.

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