When my oldest son was about the same age as this girl, he started with the questions. At the time, I was single, and he was an only child who really thought he wanted a sibling. I had convinced him that he really didn’t, because a sibling meant less of me for him.
“You will have to share Mommy when you really want to have me all to yourself.”
Since, at the time, it was just the two of us, my response appealed to the purely selfish side of him. I’m clever like that. He agreed that a sibling might not be the best thing for him, but he didn’t stop with the questions.
“But how did I get in your tummy?” and “What did my dad have to do with it?”
Honestly, it was one of the few times that I wanted his dad in my house, because he should have been sweating it out with me.
Eventually I realized that the kid deserved an honest answer. Anyway, the truth is that I wanted him to hear it from me first, not some filthy mouthed kid or a school health teacher. It took me a month or two (or six) to prepare myself, but I went and bought an age-appropriate book (Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle) to help provide some context and words—definitely words because I had none. Also, since I was a single mother at the time, I wanted him to always know that he could talk to me about absolutely anything. We were a team, so I put on my big girl undies and dealt with it.
Then one night, as we were watching television, he said, “Mom, I think I know where babies come from.”
He was so confident that I was immediately terrified.
“Do you? Tell me where you think babies come from?”
He smiled and said, “You eat a peanut, and it grows into a baby.”
I was at once confused and yet relieved. I have no idea where that came from, but I did consider letting the hypothesis stand. I chuckled and said, “Good guess, but no.”
I knew that the moment had come and that it was time to pursue the conversation. I then went to get my book, pulled my son close and started reading.
Now, let me say that this book is a very child-centered, no-nonsense approach to reproduction. It makes it clear that all of this happens between a husband and a wife and the people in the book are not drawn to look like super models. They are somewhat zaftig, which I thought was a great idea. I mean, why set the kid up for disappointment. As we read, I went from embarrassed to uncomfortable to pretty proud of myself. I had actually put aside my own discomfort and stepped up to the plate.
By the way, if he had asked me if this was how he was actually conceived, I was going to tell him, “No, because I am a goddess and only mortals have to do it this way.” My ability to deal with reality only goes so far.
After I was done reading, I asked my little guy if he had any questions, and he assured me that he did not. I took that as proof that I had done a fabulous job! I hugged him and asked, “Now do you know where babies come from?” He smiled and said, “Yep. You eat a peanut and it grows into a baby!”
Fast forward three years. I am about to get married, and my son is about to start middle school. Again he asked the question, but this time he is much more pointed.
“Mom, how do you get pregnant?”
Here we go again. I asked him if he remembered that time we read the book? He said no, but I think he did remember. Notice that he didn’t ask me what book I was talking about. Not to mention that he looked very uncomfortable, and it was that same look of discomfort that he displayed as we sat in the bean bag chair in his room and reread the book.
He listened intently and was completely disgusted by the entire thing. Disgusted! I, on the other hand, felt great. After all, I had already been through this trauma once, so this was a piece of cake. I finished, closed the book and asked him if he had any questions. At first he shook his head no, but then he said, “You did that with my dad?!”
Wow! Don’t get all judgy, kid. Let’s just be glad that we made it through this.
I didn’t say that, but instead I hugged him and told him that at one time his dad and I loved each other and that’s all that mattered. It was true, and he accepted it. The best part came about a year later when he told me that he had heard some boys in the locker room at school dispensing their middle school sexual wisdom and knew that they were lying. He thanked me for preparing him and being honest. As a mother, it really doesn’t get much better than that.
So, you see, I am seasoned and up to the task with this next little one. Let’s all hope that she can receive this with as much grace and dignity as her brother, and I can maintain my sanity.
And if not, this time I can always turn it over to her dad.