What’s sex? Did you take drugs in college? Why did you vote for George W. Bush* the second time?
Kids ask questions all the time, but there’s a difference between the ones parents can’t answer — “Does God need to shower?” — and the ones (some) parents don’t want to. The solution? Perhaps we can take a cue from politicians, their press secretaries and the so-called “bipartisan” pundits we see on TV and use the same simple strategies for answering without answering.
1. Give a detailed, thoughtful response, just not to the question they ask.
Campaigning politicians are particularly good at this, and the trick is to remember that your answer can be anything, just as long as you can loosely relate it to the original question.
For example, if asked about drugs, begin by saying “I’m glad you asked me about smoking pot in college…,” which makes it sound like you’re going to admit that for most of your sophomore year your best friend was your bong, but then say “…because I think it’s important that we be open and honest with each other, especially now that you’re older and starting to ask hard questions. It seems like only yesterday when the most important thing on your mind was which Power Ranger you wanted to dress up as, or if a certain Pokemon could beat a certain other kind of Pokemon. I have to admit that watching you grow up has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and I look forward to helping you continue on that journey towards adult- hood by providing you with the information and insight I myself have gained over the years…”
If you haven’t lost them by then, just keep talking.
2. Focus on “the larger issue.”
Which can be pretty much anything you want it to be.
3. Ask your kids what they think the answer is.
Also known as the therapist approach.
This works well for things you don’t really know how to explain, but not-so- well for things you’re just not comfortable talking about.
Time was that people who didn’t tell the truth were called liars and they were looked down upon, but thanks to all the CEO’s, athletes, politicians and ce- lebrities who’ve been caught with their pants down (or off, or filled with drugs, etc.) those days seem to be over.
The best thing about this approach is that if your lie is later exposed, you can claim you just “misspoke.” As in “Yes, I can see how my response to the ques- tion ‘Did I vote for George W. Bush?’ might have been confusing, because when I said ‘No,’ I actually misspoke. In point of fact – and because it’s im- portant to me that the record accurately reflect my views – I didn’t mean ‘No’ in the traditional sense of the word, and I can see now how my incorrect use of that word might have been somewhat misleading, because what I, in fact, meant was that I felt that in light of the specific challenges facing the Presi- dent at that time, it was important for me – and really, all of us as a nation – to remain united and strong, and because of that, I did my duty as an American by going to the polls and casting a ballot so my voice could be heard, and even though that ballot was nominally in the affirmative, it was really more a show of support for the country as a whole than a specific endorsement of any one candidate. I voted because it’s the duty of every citizen to vote, and for that I will never apologize.”
5. Use a spokesperson.
Either a hired professional or your spouse, if he or she has the BS skills required.
This has the added benefit of distancing you from your answer, whatever that might be.
Plus, if you are later confronted about the answer your spokesperson gave on your behalf, you can say you didn’t actually mean whatever it was they said and that you must have been “quoted out of context.”
*Or, increasingly for many, Barack Obama the first time.