Are we talking about the same thing?

When my daughter was early childhood age, I was at the beach with her. She made a new friend, as kids do, and spent a couple of hours playing with her, giving me time to enjoy some luxurious reading on the beach.

At some point, she ran over to me looking very serious and urgent, and she said, Mom, that girl (pointing in her direction with her head) just told me that in order to make babies, the mom and dad have to have sex. Is that true????

While she might have asked the question, the her face gave away another message: I don’t want to know.

As I paused to read her face and ponder what to do, I asked her something like, what do you think sex is?

It’s when a mommy and daddy lie in bed, on top of each other, naked. More oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening look.

I thought to myself with some relief, what a delightful answer.

Sweetie, would you like to play with your friend now and we can discuss this later if you’d like?

She got up instantly and ran over to her friend, clearly relieved. She didn’t bring it back up for several more years.

I learned a lot that day. I learned I need to read the other person beyond the words. I learned I need to make sure we understand how others – not just kids; adults – are defining a words we all assume to be on the same page with before delving into the mist. I learned from my daughter’s wise early childhood teacher – so wise – that we want to always tell the truth in a way that is appropriate to the listener’s age; so that they feel safe. And I find that when I argue with adults, often, when I dig in long enough, I learn that we essentially want the same thing, and our vocabulary and understanding is different.

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