Daddy, what's low libido? Tricky questions kids ask
Parenthood, according to all the books people read in the run-up to their due date, is an emotional and physical challenge. What they don't tell you is that it's an intellectual one as well. As soon as your child learns to speak, expect to be quizzed on everything from basic biology to sub-atomic physics.
A new survey in the UK shows that over 60pc of parents are regularly stumped by their children's questions. Maths and science ones were the trickiest, according to research coinciding with the opening of a major science exhibition in Birmingham in March.
Though others can be just as tricky: A mum from Dublin's Harold's Cross was scratching her head from these from her five-year-old: where did I poo when I was in your tummy, can I drink whiskey when I'm five, and is Santa Claus the Baby Jesus's daddy? Sometimes questions shine light into tensions at home. I was left with insight into parental conflict when a friend over on a playdate asked: "What does 'low libido' mean?"
The timing of children's questions can be a factor in the difficulty of answering them: they are usually thrown casually from the back seat of the car just as you enter a complex junction.
Lynn Scarff, programme manager at the Science Gallery in Dublin, is used to inquisitive kids. "Children want to understand where things come from, how they work and what they will look like in the future."
While it's difficult to stump an attendant at the Science Gallery, they've been put to the pin of their collars once or twice. "At our 2011 summer show, ELEMENTS, two children came in with their parents who were both scientists. These children were able to tell us about anti-matter before asking our mediators to explain how magnetism worked at a sub-atomic level. These children were no more than six!" recalls Lynn.
Despite the success of popular science projects such as the Science Gallery, Ireland slipped 10 places in the world league for science and maths education according to a report published by the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland last September. We now rank 24th out of 139 countries studied.
The UK survey, undertaken to mark the Big Bang exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham from March 15-17, also showed a quarter of parents felt embarrassed at not being able to answer their child's question.
The science broadcaster Prof Brian Cox has suggested the best way to deal with awkward questions is to work with the children to find the answers. But many parents (16pc of the 2,000 interviewed ) adopted my failsafe reply to any query on division, astronomy or anatomy: "Your mother is much better at explaining that than I am. Ask her."
For even more useful information, visit www.sciencegallery.com