So I was standing outside the Topanga Homegrown clothing and gift store the other day, in downtown small-town Topanga, talking to my friend R. as I picked up her 11-year-old daughter for the day, and we were lamenting how the national emphasis on "family values" is messing up our own families' values. Since Palin's nomination the issues of teen pregnancy and abortion have saturated the news, to the extent that my kids are starting to ask questions I wasn't planning to be answering yet. Maya's still just 10, and the other day she asked, "What's abortion?" She'd heard kids talking about it at school vis a vis this election. I'd been hoping to hold off on that one for a while, like maybe until both my kids were old enough to spell "reproduction."
Eden was in the car, too, which means my audience had an average age of 8. I could have defaulted into a lame response like, "We'll talk about it when you're older" but I really hate saying that to kids. I think it insults whatever level of intelligence they have. What it really means is, "I can't figure out a good way to explain it in a way I think your limited intelligence can understand." Except this time what it would have meant was, "I don't want to have to explain it to you until I feel you're emotionally mature enough to really absorb and understand the complexity of the situation." It would have been an honest and legitimate response from a pro-choice mother in this case, but it probably would have invited Maya to go back and ask her friends to explain it instead. Sorry to use such pat rhetoric here, but I value my family too much to send my kids off to get an answer elsewhere when they've come to me for it first. So I did the best I could with explaining what it means to end a pregnancy, and why a woman might need to do that, to my 10- and 6-year-old daughters in a way that wouldn't confuse or upset them. But it really pissed me off that I had to.