Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Birds and the Bees

It is springtime, and love is in the air here at Just Another Mama House. As with any obsession of Luke’s and Henry’s, it seems to be feeding on itself, careening faster and faster down this bird and bee covered hill. Frankly, I’m having a hard time keeping calm about it all, despite being the approachable, cool mom that I am.

It started in earnest last week with Luke telling me that a girl in his class was talking about lying in bed kissing boys. Luke and Henry and I discussed it at the park, and we came to the conclusion that this sort of kissing is for much, much older people. I thought we were all in agreement. But a few days later, I found Henry and his little friend, a boy nearly his age from next door, practicing “married kissing” under the table. Apparently, kissing becomes married kissing when heads are tilted.

Then, a few days after that, while I was reading bedtime stories to the boys, Luke asked, “Why do people have to be married to have kids?”

“Well, they don’t,” I said, “but usually people get married and then have babies.”

“Well, how do women have babies?” asked Luke.

“They grow them in their bellies!” yelled Henry.

“No, HOW do they start growing?” asked Luke.

Well, clearly Luke was asking me for information, and I guess that my policy has always been to answer these sorts of questions as clearly and as simply as possible. I have just never been tested on this policy quite so much.

“Well, sperm from a man and an egg from a woman join together and grow in the woman’s uterus and that becomes a baby,” I answered.

“Oh, okay. Goodnight,” said Luke.

I knew I was off the hook for the moment, but I anticipated more questions in the days to come. My friend offered to lend me a book on the subject, written for children from ages four and up, and so I accepted. I decided that I would bring the book home, review it, and then read it to Luke when and if I thought it was a good idea.

“What is that?” Luke asked as I tried to discreetly slip the book into the bottom of Henry’s stroller.

“Oh, just a book about how babies are made, like we were talking about the other day,” I said casually.

“Eww!” he said, perhaps for the benefit of my friend’s six-year-old daughter, on whom Luke seems to have a crush.

But the next morning, Luke asked me to read him the book, which I did. Henry listened, too. I figured that Henry is almost four, and that Luke would tell him about it anyway.

They whooped and laughed when I read the pages about male and female anatomy. Luckily, the book has a sense of humor, and the cartoon character hosts/narrators joke about how these words are funny.

Then, as we moved into how male and female bodies produce eggs and sperm, Luke said, “Oh! Now I see. You have to be grown up before your body will make the stuff that you need for a baby, right?”

BINGO! I thought.

“So wait,” said Luke, a look of horror crossing his face, “Do you have to cut open the penis to get some sperm out so you can put it in the woman?”

Aha. See, this is why I needed to go further in this explanation. The other night, when I gave him the mechanical, sex-free version of how babies are made, I knew it was too easy. I knew that it must be problematic. And this is the problem. His imagination will run wild, or rumors on the playground will fill in the gaps in his knowledge.

So we turned the page, and read about how adult men and women do something called “making love,” “sex,” or “having sex.”

“Really?” asked Luke, in shock. “Is everything in this book real?”

“Yes,” I answered, and read on.

Soon, they grew bored—somewhere during the page on how twins are formed—and we switched to a different book.

Later that day, Henry demanded that Craig read the book. Henry seemed to think that Craig needed the information. Also, both Luke and Henry are extra interested in boyfriends and girlfriends and getting married. Otherwise, though, they seem to be carrying on as usual. Frankly, I’m a little worried that one of them will say something about it while checking out at the grocery or during coffee hour at church. But then, it wouldn’t be the first time that one of them said something embarrassing or inappropriate. I guess it seems like it might be worse if it is about sex. I guess that is the price that one must pay for being an approachable, cool mom.


so yung wilson said...

I think my face got a little warm just reading this encounter. Then relief washed over me as I realized that I will not have to have this kind of talk in a very, very long time if ever.

You really are a very cool mom, Ser. They seem so very young, but then again, I had "boyfriends" in K-3. It was all quite innocent (although I was told I was found naked in a closet playing doctor w/a childhood friend but I don't recall a thing), but these days ... it's probably good that to be frank because as you pointed out, the playground is as chock full of useful information as the 'net.

Wasn't your first instinct to scream in reply, "YES! You HAVE to CUT the penis to get the sperm out! Isn't that AWFUL!" just to deter them for a bit, you know? But your way was probably better.

I'm curious, what's the book's title?

Becky said...

I think you did a great job. Now they will always know that they can come to you with any questions and you won't just blow them off. Kudos for you.

Molly Sabourin said...

I, too, think you did a GREAT job, Ser! I love that Henry thought Craig needed to be schooled on the facts of baby making. :) We have had many an awkward conversation at our house regarding body parts and their various purposes, etc. How much better, though, to err on the side of too much information - too much discussion - than a silence that conveys "dirtiness" instead of miraculousness and (within the appropriate marital, context) enduring love.

so yung wilson said...

Ser, for you inner- and outer-foodie, check out

Tracy McPherson said...

You always seem to approach the difficult subjects in such an appropriate manner. I'm not sure I would be so cool but thank you for showing me how to be! And I agree, it is far better for them to have an honest answer than to make up something.

Nancy Gift said...

I think that's great you found a book for Luke. Emily has, I think, asked me all the questions she needs. However, we did have a rather amusing conversation, when one of her friends, S., had just learned from her parents how babies were made. S. had asked Emily before, but she refused, saying she really should hear it from her parents. Afterward, Emily and S. agreed that it was entirely disgusting, and S. understood why Emily wouldn't spill the beans.

BTW, I think 7 is the perfect age to learn. They still believe that you are the authority, at least most of the time!

alaskapeter said...

Ahh, THAT'S how it works!

Beck said...

My oldest is nearly 10 and has made it VERY clear that she does not want to know all the details, thank you very much. And she's picking up remarkably little in the gutter, which means that sometime soon we are going to have to have a VERY embarrassing talk. yikes!

Lhamo Osel said...

The title, the Title, the TITLE please. Sounds like you handled it perfectly and I will need to do the same soon. Drew is in a "girls are gross" stage (except for the fact that his two best friends are female).