My son had just turned four when his sister was born. During my pregnancy with her, my growing belly prompted a lot of questions from him. “How did that baby get IN there, anyway? I know you told me that Dad planted a seed that’s growing into a baby, but HOW did he plant that seed?”
I decided to buy the same book that my mom read to us when we were kids, Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle, illustrated by Arthur Robins. If you haven’t seen this book or its sister-book, What’s Happening To Me? (a guide on puberty), I highly recommend them. They are a hoot, and they are actually quite helpful in explaining everything simply, truthfully and with cartoon illustrations. When my son first connected the dots regarding the physiology of human reproduction, his reaction was, “GROSS!” I left the discussion at that, figuring that when he was ready for more information, he would ask. I’ve heard that we’re only supposed to answer our kids’ questions with enough details to quench rather than drown. He had questions, and so I answered them truthfully and simply until he clearly did not want any more information. We’ve had more talks since then, but I have learned that sensitive topics like these should be approached slowly with him. He processes the information in small bits over longer periods of time.
About a year ago, it occurred to me that I hadn’t had any of these conversations with my youngest, because…well… she is the youngest. Boy-O’s questions started when he noticed my body changing during pregnancy, but there is no more pregnant happening in this house, so one night, while we were chatting about her new-baby cousin, I asked my daughter, “Do you know where babies come from?”
“No,” she replied.
“Would you like to read about it with me?”
She has always been inquisitive and curious, but I figured it would be a quick read-through, like her brother’s, followed by maybe a question or two and then a kiss goodnight.
That child, at age six – SIX – interrogated me for an hour-and-a-half. Her least controversial question was, “Mom, if the special hug feels so nice, how can you do it without making a baby?”
Never in my wildest imagination could I have predicted that I would be having a birth control discussion with my six-year-old. (I went with, “Well…um…there’s actually medicine for that after your married,” rather than touching a condom with a ten-foot pole, but I made a mental note that we should probably have a condom conversation by the time she is a teenager. Oy.)
To be perfectly honest, I get a huge kick out of these conversations with my kids. They feel like very important “keep calm and carry on” practice sessions for future conversations, when the decisions for which they seek input will be far weightier than whether or not they can drink soda at a birthday party. I want them to keep coming to me when they are seeking answers, even when the questions are hard. I want them to keep talking to me when they need someone to listen, even when the topics are scary or painful or downright embarrassing. I want them to know that I hear them; that I understand them; that I won’t fly off the handle over something important to them, even if the idea of letting them decide something big on their own has me shaking in my shoes. That little one is preparing me for big, hard questions (no pun intended). Deep breaths. It’s all good.