May Day (Mayday!)

[Alternative title:  Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby, or rather, Let’s Talk about Sex AND Babies]

We were finishing up lunch, and Marin was the last one still eating when she asked “How does God put a baby in a mom’s tummy?”  I answered with my standard response to that question from a 4 year old by asking her “Well, what do you think?”  But I made a tactical error… because Joan and Kate were both listening.

I’ve actually been WAITING for Joan and Kate to ask me more questions about how this baby got IN my body.  They knows tons– more than some adults– about childbirth (hello, Doula Mom in the haus!), but they’ve never expressed curiosity about how the baby gets in there to begin with.  I’ve asked them before “So, how do you think the baby gets inside a mommy?” and they just shrug and say “I don’t know.  God does it.”

Recently, I stood in the library, debating, book in hand.  Should I get it for them?  It described, in kid-friendly but fairly graphic detail exactly what sex was.  AND WHAT IT FELT LIKE.  (It was this book, I believe.)  After some thought, I did not check it out, because I just didn’t think they were READY to know.  On one hand, I am 100% fine telling them anything they want or need to know, but on the other hand… well, these girls still believe in Santa.  In fairies and leprechauns.  They are still in that magical and carefree place of childhood, and I don’t want to take THAT from them either.  They will only be in this carefree, not-wanting-or-needing-to-know-about-the-world for such a short time… soon that will all naturally end for them.

I know lots of parenting philosophies disagree with me, that lots of people think 100% honestly is the best policy, and I believe that too, to a point.  We use real names for body parts, and nudity (child or adult) is no big thing around here.  I am not embarrassed to talk to them about bodies or babies or any of it.  But I do think that SEX– and thinking about your mom and dad having it– is in a different category somehow.  A category that I want to be sure they are ready to comprehend before foisting it on them.  And maybe being pregnant makes it MORE… well, just more.  Because if I tell them about sex right now, they won’t just think that sex is this random thing people do once in a while to make a baby, but that MOM AND DAD DID THAT TO MAKE THIS BABY IN MOM’S BODY.

On the other-other hand, _I_ want to be the one to tell them, before they are filled with tons of erroneous and/or negative information from other kids at school.  I want to be able to spin it as something natural, lovely, and NOT shameful, first, ya know?  I wish I knew exactly how much the OTHER kids know.  It seems like the other kids might be using the word “sex” without really knowing what it means.

So anyway, OF COURSE Marin is the one to ask, after I’ve been waiting forEVAH for her sisters to ask.  And she’s obviously not ready for any very technical answers.  But then Kate piped in “You have to have sex to have a baby.”

I asked Kate “What does it mean to have sex?” and she said “I don’t know.  [Friend] just told me that.  I think it means kissing and stuff?”  Joan said “Well, I know that a mom’s cells and a dad’s cells have to join together and that makes a baby.  I read it in a book.”  At the same time, Marin is talking over everyone about how SHE thinks babies get in there.  It was a little chaotic for a few minutes with everyone talking.  I was finally able to make sure Kate heard me say “You won’t get pregnant from kissing.”  She replied “Oh, well, God probably has a special way that no one really understands.” And she turned around and went outside.

Joan and Marin (still sitting at the table) were on to talking about something else, so I let the subject drop.

At this point, everyone seems totally satisfied with their own understanding of how babies are made, so I’m tempted to leave it that way for a while.  I plan on making sure both girls understand that kissing won’t get you pregnant, sometime when it’s quieter and Marin isn’t using her GIANT LUNGS to talk over everyone.  But unless they ask more questions, I think I’ll let it go for now.

I should also point out, the “God” explanation is one they have come up with on their own.  I’ve never explained it to them in that way… they just explained it to THEMSELVES that way.  We’re not even a very religious family, so the “God explanations” are something completely organic to their own thinking.

What do you guys think?  Have any of you had to talk about this with your children?  How old were they?  How did you know how much to tell them?  Like I said, I have no problem telling them everything, as long as they are READY to hear it… and I’m not sure they are.


19 thoughts on “May Day (Mayday!)

  1. GULP!

    I am so not ready for any of this.

    Leave it to Marin to get the ball rolling, right? I think you are right on all counts. You want to be the one to tell them, esp b/c friendship learning is often chock full of misinformation. Even if you give the twins a more detailed answer, I still am not certain they will put together that Daddy did that to Mommy. Something about self preservation so they don’t fry their own brains from the horror and EUW factor.

    • I think that being pregnant RIGHT NOW will take them to that “mommy and daddy did THAT” place much more quickly that if I wasn’t pregnant right now. I mean, the pregnancy makes it all the more RELEVANT to them, you know? We’re not just talking about babies in general… but THIS baby… or at least it would get brought back around to THIS BABY fairly quickly…

      • It’s also kind of a good thing tho. As they will *get* that a man is involved just as much as a woman, which is harder to talk about in some areas. You have the model of intimacy and family building that you chose and I assume want them to choose, so that makes it easier , right ? Tell Dad to GET READY. They will quiz him too. 🙂

  2. Oh, my, Advice giving me JUMPED to the forefront when I saw this on Twitter. Done this 3 times. Am READY for you. Also in the murky inbetween with my 10 year old right now, who is foiling me by not asking…
    You handled that exactly right. Everything you are thinking about and debating with your self is on target. They are getting more info than we think and it will be erroneous until that ONE kid comes and lays out the technicalities. We all want to avoid that ONE kid who knows right ?
    So, what I did, which may or may not be relevant to your interests. Get more books. A lot of books. Being pregnant is a great opportunity to start this discussion which shouldn’t really be *The TAlK’* but rather a Buncho’ talks for years to come.
    I started in with discussing the reproductive systems. That’s a lot of info, right there. You can have a Ladies bodies day since you have little girls and start there first but please, detail how boy’s /men’s bodies work over the years also. I draw so that has always helped as a visual aid and gotten me over the awkward bits.
    Mainly, I think you need to sit down and plan out the info you want to present, the moral climate you want to encourage and the level of info they WANT/NEED to hear at this age and later. Extra dry and technical helps with the first run-thru because the questions they ask will fill all of it in as they ponder it.
    Starting with fallopian tubes and ovaries and sperm and such ? gets them a lot of info to form a good base for the inevitable ..But how does the sperm get to the egg? question.
    You can not escape the kids eventually figuring out that Mom and Dad do the sex !!! but don’t worry as they generally consider that gross & lame & beyond the pale etc. Be prepared for any reaction. I laughed at my mom cos honestly? If that wasn’t the STEWPEDEST thing I had ever heard of doing…
    You’re doing the best thing now which is being open to the questions and giving them correct info. Letting the kid guide you is smart and makes the whole hairy deal easier to digest.
    How much do I love Marin “giant lunging” everyone else into submission ? A LOT !! Adorable girls, every one.

  3. And forgot to mention resources I have used. “Our bodies , Our Selves” as a go to reference on women’s bodies is really essential esp. with a houseful of girls. I use this as a book to prepare myself, use as a chapter guide on reproductive stuff but at 8 they are too young to page thru themselves. I like the “What’s happening to my body book for girls” ( there is one for boys,too. ) At 8 they are too young to take the book off and then come back with questions but you can read them now and have them ready for a read out loud chapter as necessary ? I’m sure the net will give you plenty more tips and will now lay back and enjoy the show.

    • Oh, I have that book! It is a good one, I agree. Yeah, I don’t think we’re in need of puberty stuff yet. I have an American Girl brand book about bodies that I think is a good start. (It’s called “The Care and Keeping of You”.)

      Thanks for all the info… very helpful!

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  5. Will be following all comments as my son is also 8. I had a baby when he was 6.5 and I kept expecting him to ask me or my husband how she got in there, but no, never expressed any curiosity about it whatsoever. Fine, I let it go at there is a baby inside mommy. Now he’s nearing the end of second grade and still nothing. Likely this will be my husband’s talk to have with him at some point, but I am stymied as to at what point it should be particularly with a boy since I’ve never been a boy and didn’t have any brothers to ask. Since my girl is not yet 2, I’ve got time, but it’s never too early to start worrying about what to say and when 😉

  6. My mom explained it all to me when I was in 4th grade, a week or so (I thin) before we did the 1st sex ed stuff at school. I was glad I learned at home first. But I have no idea if kids start talking about sex earlier these days.

    My mom also just left age-appropriate books around the house and told us to ask her if we had questions.

  7. We have a few books. I can’t remember who asked first or when, exactly, but we started reading the books when our two oldest were probably 4-5 (girl) and 7-8 (boy), in response to interest from them… I think when I was pregnant with #4. At this point, (ages 7 and 10, with #3 thrown in for good measure, age 4), I know they understand HOW babies are made. Mostly. But what I think they DON’T know is that people ALSO have sex even when they do NOT want to make babies. I think that would totally freak them out. My 10 year 1 week old oldest baby boy is going to need some more information soon, though, as I’m pretty sure the SELF SEX starts at some point in the near future. omgomgomgomgomg

    As far as books, we have _How Babies are Made_ and _Boys, Girls, and Body Science: A First Book About Facts of Life_. Both pretty good. Not EXACTLY what I’d wanted, but very close for the time.

  8. My son, now 7, asked me when he was 5 or 6, out of the blue. He’s really into nature shows, so he asked me something along the lines of “I know animals mate to make babies, but what do humans do?” I told him that humans do the same thing, using a very few key words (A man uses his penis to put the sperm in a woman’s vagina, and they combine to make an embryo). He knew most of those words already from his nature shows. I was feeling so proud of myself for giving him a basic but complete explanation that he could understand. Until he looked at me and said “I don’t believe you! That’s what ANIMALS do, not people.”

  9. The way you’re handling it sounds like just the way I like to handle it. Some here, some there, some because _I_ bring it up, some because THEY bring it up—and different rates for different children, because some children want to know earlier and some are more need-to-know-basis-only about it.

    I like to talk about it with older kids when I have them in the car with me, separate from the littler kids. Also because I think it’s easier to talk about in the car, where eye contact need not be made.

    I also have several books on the shelf (Peter Mayle’s Where Did I Come From?, two Robie Harris books, and a book called something like What’s Going On Down There? For Boys) so that if a child has a question they feel shy about asking (that was TOTALLY ME as a child) they have a place they can go look it up privately.

    In my own school experience, sex wasn’t much discussed among classmates until high school, but that was DEFINITELY because I went to a small private religious middle school! And even there, it was when I was at an 8th grade sleepover that I heard a LOT of information from other girls—and, wincingly, one of the girls had already had sex, at age 12. So I use that as a rough guide for when to have the kids prepared: Rob is 12 and started middle school this year and still seems uninterested in girls—but one of his friends has a girlfriend, and also soon he’ll also be too old to be able to BEAR to talk about sex with his parents, so I have a feeling of wanting to make sure we’ve talked even about the more complicated issues, such as birth control and respect and what it MEANS to have sex in a relationship, before we get to the stage where he can’t even hear me through the embarrassment.

    • Yes, actually, I think that you articulated my goal that I wasn’t able to bring to the forefront of my mind: I want to be able to talk to them enough about it NOW, while it’s not embarrassing (or even RELEVANT to their own bodies), so that later if they can’t/won’t talk to me, I’ve at least established and ingrained in them how I feel about the important stuff.

      Also, I was just looking at the Robie Harris books- we have the two children’s books of his (Happy Birth Day and Hi, New Baby) which are wonderful, so I was interested in his puberty books too.

  10. Hm. My parenting stance is that we put ourselves in the position to where every question is answered accurately when posed. If the time is inappropriate, then I tell my kids that it is an important question, I am glad they asked, and I will talk about it with them later. I also don’t believe that there should not be a “talk”. There should be a number of occasions in which information is gleaned to create a full picture. My son started asking questions at about 5 and that is when I started answering them. Whenever I answer a question, I remember to ask afterwards: Did that answer your question? Do you have another?

    I think knowledge is power and can help protect kids from abuse because they know what is happening if inappropriate touching is going on. But that just comes from my line of work. I will freely admit to my paranoia.

    If I had had your experience with your girls, I might sit the twins down and say: There was a short coversation about babies and sex the other day. I just want you to know that I will answer any questions you have about that kind of stuff. All you have to do is ask. You don’t have to ask now. You can ask anytime. And then give them a hug and move on.

    • Good thoughts! I think I’ll mention it to them casually (not sitting them down) because their attitude about it is casual, and I don’t want them to think that talking about it is a BIG DEAL. I like that they are comfortable and nonchalant about it, and since at 8 they are not anywhere near NEEDING to know about sex, birth control, etc, I’d like to keep it casual and easy.

      I’m also fairly paranoid about abuse. We are VIGILANT about who we leave our children with. VIGILANT.

  11. I love Misty and Swistle’s answers. I am pregnant with an 18 month old, so I just explained that there was a baby in Mama’s belly and left it at that – not exactly relevant to your situation. I am definitely putting this post in my “reread this in a few years” mental file.

    The funniest thing to me is that some days Adriana seems to totally “get it” – she will give my belly kisses and hugs and say “nice baby!” and other days she points to my husband’s belly or her own and says “baby!!”

    What strikes me about your conversation with the twins is that they both have two totally different (but accurate enough) takes on how babies are made. Interesting that they didn’t seem to think it was weird that they both had a different answer. Maybe just a quick convo to bridge the gap – “Joan was right about cells coming together, and for that to happen, you have to have sex (like Kate said).” Then see if they have further questions from there?

  12. Harper started to go down that road at lunch a couple of days ago – asking how the baby got in there… and honestly I was not in the frame of mind to have a thoughtful conversation about it and I sort of gently rerouted the conversation.

    What is interesting for me is that Harper has asked a lot of questions about whether you have to be married to have a baby – and I don’t believe in lying about that, even though I’d like her to be married first!

  13. I think a lot depends on the kid. My son is very scientific and pretty much understood the mechanics of reproduction– both the way he was conceived (insemination) and the more traditional method– by the time he was four. He asked a lot of questions and we answered. I think it was less embarrassing for us to talk about because he was conceived in a doctor’s office. It didn’t mean mentioning anything about my sex life.

    My daughter is five and knows almost nothing about it. She hasn’t asked despite a few of her friends’ mothers having been pregnant over the past couple years. I keep thinking she will but she doesn’t.

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