It's a Suitcase Thing!

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Have you ever considered that too much knowledge can be a bad thing? “How are babies made?”

“What is germ warfare?”

I grew up a fearful child. I was terrified of Nuclear War and was sure someone in Russia had their finger on a warhead that was pointed straight at my house. I was also scared of strangers as the nightly news apprised me of every missing child… and their fate.

During a high school Child Development class, I was educated about all forms of birth control and how to use them. I had no need of this information at that time in my life, but it did open my mind to ideas and possibilities…

Moments after our homebirth in August 2009, the younger children came in to meet their brother. As eight-year-old Isaac stood gazing at the new baby, a question formed in his young mind. He had seen me pregnant a half-hour before and suddenly wondered, “Mommy, how did he get out?”

Innocence is such a precious thing and too much knowledge can destroy this. Perhaps if our children spent time with others who might “educate” them, our thoughts would surely be different. But because we believe we need to protect our children from too much information before the appointed time, I simply answered, “That’s a 'suitcase thing' and we’ll open that 'suitcase' when you’re a bit older.” He was totally satisfied with this answer.

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Several years ago I read the book, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom and one particular passage permanently impacted my thinking as a parent:

Oftentimes I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me, since anything I asked at home was promptly answered by the aunts. Once—I must have been ten or eleven—I asked Father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young man whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and Mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her.

“Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and “sin” made Tante Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It’s too heavy,” I said.

“Yes,” he said, “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

And I was satisfied. More than satisfied—wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions—for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.

Through the years my older daughters and I have occasionally joked about when the appointed time would come to “throw open all those suitcases!” Of course, as they have matured, so have our private conversations. Now as adults, they truly appreciate those suitcases and have a desire to protect their younger siblings from damaging information.

The next time your little one comes to you with a “heavy” question, perhaps you could use that as an opportunity to talk about… suitcases.

How do you handle questions and discussions that your children are simply not ready for?