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Over the first year of Father Knows Best, the staff in the FKB mailroom has been keeping a tally of Frequently Asked Questions. Today, as we approach what Wikipedia tells me is our Paper anniversary (or, if you’re in the UK, our Cotton anniversary), the staff has agreed to share their Top 3 list of FAQs with us. And I’ve agreed to provide responses.
Far and away the most common FAQ is, “Do you make up the questions?”
No. I’m a pretty creative guy. But I’m not that creative. FKB is only as good as the questions that folks send in, and I’m grateful to everyone who shares their curiosity and their vulnerability and their passion with us. It is both fun and challenging to spend some time with all of you every week; together, we get to wonder about God, about community, about loss, about love, about meaning, and more. Thanks so much for sharing this journey with me.
The second most common FAQ is, “Am I allowed to ask a question?”
Yes you are. Tracy Simmons, SpokaneFAVs editor, has set up the website in such a way that you can anonymously ask whatever you like. Maybe 15 percent of the folks who write in choose to give their names. But the rest are totally unknown to me. In many cases, I don’t even have the information that Dan Savage’s readers provide to him: the reader’s age and gender.
As a sidebar, I’ve been fascinated over this past year to observe the way that my mind automatically fills in the blanks and forms mental images of the people who write me. By the time I’m done reading a letter, I have envisioned how tall someone is, what color hair he has, which sports teams she cheers for, and so forth. (It would probably be a big surprise for me to actually meet the reader in question!) Apparently, lots of you do the same: I remember a string of comments a while back in which pretty much everyone referred to the “young woman” who had asked that week’s question — even though the person who posed the question never indicated that (s)he was either young or a woman.
The third most common FAQ is some variation on the theme of, “How do I share my really happy but really life changing news?” Planning on getting married and having a baby both fall into this category. Sometimes readers share circumstances which make delivering their news feel awkward or ill-timed.
I get why people are nervous. Sharing stuff like this is hard. Mrs. FKB and I, for instance, felt pretty anxious about telling our families that we were expecting our first child. We made it through our announcement by doing two things. First, we decided for ourselves that having a child truly was a good and joyful thing, and we made that clear in the way that we carried ourselves and the way that we spoke about the pregnancy. That’s a vital first step if you want your loved ones to share in your happiness: you’re not going to be able to convince anyone that you’ve got happy news if you present that news as though it were an apology. Our families were delighted to hear that we were expecting a baby in large part because they could see how delighted that we were.
Second, we made our announcement by using that marvelous tool called humor. My mom provided us with the perfect window: shortly after Mrs. FKB and I learned that our baby was coming, my mom, for the first time ever, brought up the subject of kids. “Don’t wait too long,” she said, “to make us into grandparents.” Thus, we were able to go over to my folks’ house the next day and say to them, “We’ve been thinking about what you said yesterday. How’s July for you?” My mom, God bless her, had a moment of total and silent bewilderment before she asked us, “You mean this July?”
As I said in this column a few months ago, there’s really no way to share happy but nervous-making news except to be loud and proud. Speak in the steadiest voice that you can muster, smile if you can, and give your loved ones the wonderful news that a big change is coming.