My friend Mark sent me this email and, frankly, I’m stumped on how to delicately answer his daughter’s question. He writes:
My wife and I had a really awkward experience during our vacation last week. Any chance you could give us some advice on how to handle it? Here’s what happened. We were traveling on the stretch of highway from the Orlando, Florida area heading south toward West Palm Beach. The kids were sitting in the back of our minivan, engrossed in their fifth episode of Adventures in Odyssey.
Meanwhile, my wife and I were enjoying some good coffee and conversation upfront. Everyone was having a great time. That’s when my daughter asked me a question caught me totally off guard. She said, “Daddy, what do those signs mean?”
“Which sign?” I glanced in the rearview mirror to see what she was talking about.
“Those billboards,” she said, pointing out the window on her side of the minivan. “The ones that say ‘We Bare All’” I cringed. I knew what she was talking about. For the last thirty miles or so, I couldn’t help but see them, too. While I had hoped the kids wouldn’t notice them, I knew they were impossible to miss.
I’m talking giant billboards the size of tractor trailers sprouting from the ground like weeds on both sides of the highway. Several featured the silhouette of a female figure (like those chrome images on a truckers’ mud flaps). A number of them had phrases like “Adult Playland” and “Adult Toys” in five-foot tall lettering. There was even one called “The Lion’s Den”—talk about ironic.
I should point out our children are ages 11, 8, and 4. It was the eleven-year-old who asked the question. While we haven’t had the “sex talk” with her yet, she’s sharp so I knew I couldn’t NOT answer her question . . . at the same time I resented the fact that my hand was being forced because of these lurid billboards.
To be candid, I stalled for time because I had no clue what to say. I mean, how do you tell an innocent child what goes on in one of those places? I told my daughter we’d talk about it later—and “later” is now. Now what? I sure could use a few suggestions on how to handle this.
Whether it’s a suggestive billboard on the highway or a risqué commercial on television during the “family hour,” there comes a time when the culture puts us in the uncomfortable position of addressing a tricky topic before we may be prepared to do so. That said, I’d love for you to weigh in. How would you tackle his daughter’s question?