I’ve never been worried about when Page asks about ‘the birds and the bees.’ Seems to me people get entirely too perplexed about how to handle this. In part because they instantly think they have to give too much information, reading these questions as sexual way before they are. For example, my preschool niece asked me many years ago upon meeting my now-husband, “Do you sleep with him?” I asked her why she asked, and she explained she wanted to know if he was my ‘person’ like mom had dad and grandma had grandpa and aunt so-and-so had uncle… These people went to sleep together and woke up together, so that gave their relationship a certain meaning. But she was not asking me about sex when she asked me if we slept together.
Fast forward many years later and I have my own child asking the inevitable questions about where babies come from. I know just to answer the question with a little info at a time because often that is all the child is seeking. But I am also not uncomfortable with the topic of sex, and I have my ‘Where Did I Come From’ type book tucked away with its simple explanation and cartoons of bodies, so I am prepared for when Page gets to the point of wanting the full story. I have advised parents over the years how to tell children of all ages where babies come from, and being prepared with developmentally appropriate material helps soothe nerves for parents who are anxious about the topic. Though some parents, like the kind of parent I would be, are not uncomfortable talking about sex. (That last sentence is how I described myself before, well…)
The early progression of questions was simple.
“Where do babies come from?”
“They grow in a woman’s uterus.”
That held us over for quite a while.
“How do babies get into a woman’s uterus?”
“A man and a woman do a special love-hug that grown-ups can do that makes babies.”
That answer lasted a long time (years) and was repeated at several questionings.
“How does the special love-hug create a baby?”
“You know how when you grow something you need a seed and then food/fertilizer? Well, the woman has the seed, you know we’ve talked about that before, the egg, and the man has the fertilizer, and they mix together and make a baby.”
This explanation lasted a while but she was starting to get more curious.
Then she started engaging in some scientific thought about this, and one day while my sister was there Page asked, “Mom, how do babies get into a woman’s uterus?”
“A man and a woman do a special love-hug that makes babies.”
“Yeah, but HOW does that make a baby?”
“You know, the egg and the fertilizer mix together and make the baby.”
“Yeah, but HOW do they mix together? I don’t get it. Tummies are hard.” She touches my stomach and hers to show that even engaged in a hug there does not appear to be an opening for fertilizer to get to the egg.
Self-talk: OK, I’m perfectly ready for this. I’m comfortable taking about sex. Well, no, apparently not with my own child; I’m feeling quite flustered. No worries, calm down, it’s a simple explanation, I have the developmentally appropriate book with the age-appropriate cartoons to help… I hate the book. I don’t want to use the book. I don’t want to explain to her where babies come from for real. I’m not ready.
(Like many things in child development, the child is ready, it’s the parent who is not.)
Page is staring at me. My sister is staring at me. “It’s magic!” I blurt out. “Magic?” Page asks. This answer catches her off guard because we tend to use scientific descriptions of things in our house for the most part, so nothing is just “magic.” She looks a little confused. But alas she is still young enough to be excited by the concept of things being magical if I stick with it. So I go on in a very happy, excited voice, “Yes! Isn’t that amazing?! Magic helps make babies! Isn’t that cool?!” Page agrees that is just wonderful and goes off to play.
I am left with my sister, eyebrow raised and smirking. “Magic, Tina?” I tell her not to pick on me. She continues taunting, “Well, you know, when it’s happening it can feel kind of magical…”
Originally published at chapelboro.com on January 29, 2013