One of ‘Those’ Questions


One of “Those” Questions

I remember one night, not too long ago, when our 8-year-old’s homework assignment was to read a chapter from his religion book. As Quinn and I finished the section about patron saints, we chatted about the patron of ‘this and that’ and he mentioned St. Benedict—his favorite since learning about him in first grade.

Quinn: What’s Benedict the patron saint of? Monks, I guess.
Mom: I guess. Let’s check.

I grabbed his copy of “Book of Saints for Catholics Children.” As I flipped through the A’s: Agatha the Pure Virgin, Agnes, Aloysius, etc., to get to Benedict—here it came:

Quinn: What’s a virgin?

{{Cue crickets}}

In the deafening silence of his bedroom, the narrative in my head resembled Elaine’s silent freak-out on the Seinfeld episode when she’s trapped on the subway [refresh your memory here]:

Nooooooooooo!! I knew this day would come, but not tonight. I’m too tired. Blessed Virgin Mary. We hear it all the time. What *is* that answer I’d prepared for this occasion? Why is my mind blank? Why is my mouth dry? WHERE is his father? Matt? MATT?? Can I pretend I just fell asleep? What. Should. I. SAY????

OK, just calm down and say something. {{At last my inner grown-up kicked in}} Give an age-appropriate answer, without providing more detail than needed, or more than he asked for.

Mom: Well, you know how Dad and I are married? And you know how some of the saints consider themselves married to Christ, and Christ is married to his Church? Well, that’s a virgin: someone who’s not married to another person, but married to Christ.
Quinn: Like a sister?
Mom: Yeah.
Quinn: OK.

Really? We’re good?

Though I’m sure few [no]theologians, pediatricians, or many parents for that matter, would approve of my response, I figure it’s not the last time the topic of virginity will come up. There will be ample opportunity for us [and by “us” I mean his father]to elaborate on it later.

And to think, I could’ve avoided—or at least delayed—the whole thing if I’d only remembered that Benedict is *indeed* the patron saint of monks… as well as Europe, kidney disease and students.

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS: What challenging questions have your kids asked? How did you handle it?

Copyright 2012 Julie Filby


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  1. Passing an SPCA billboard recently, I received the following question from my seven year old: “Mama, what does spay mean?” Our parish priests preach against contraception with some regularity, so I decided to seize the opportunity. I told her, “It means to make it so the girl dogs can’t have puppies. And that’s close to what contraception means too–making it so women can’t have babies.” My ten-year-old, also in the car, exclaimed “Oh! I’ve always wondered what that meant!” And that was the extent of that conversation.

    My theory on why they didn’t react much is that kids (maybe especially girls?) instinctively know that it’s wrong to “make it so women can’t have babies,” so they don’t even think to question why we would pray for it to end. It was an explanation that just clicked into place for them.

    I’m glad I didn’t get the follow-up question, “How do they do that?” I’m not that quick on my feet…

  2. I can so relate here. Good answer by the way. My kids have asked some doozies too. I just cannot think of them right now (probably because I want to block them from my memory)

  3. This article made me LOL hysterically b/c my son has asked me a plethora of questions in the realm of insanely uncomfortable (for me) for years now (he just turned 13). When I asked him why he asks me instead of Daddy, he replied, “Because I never know if he is going to tell me the RIGHT answer!” I nearly died laughing (but had to hold it in to his face)…however, since my husband is Catholic in name-only, there is a part of me that appreciates my sons being comfortable enough to ask me vs. Daddy (b/c I know that I will give the appropriate Faith-based answer). It doesn’t get any easier, though, and I am constantly having those panic moments in my head, I assure you. 😉 God bless us all as we deal with “those” questions!

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