My older kiddo Kaspar was three when I became pregnant with his little brother Otto. In an effort to prepare him somewhat for what was about to go down—not only in terms of the birth itself (we did that at home and it was awesome) but also with regard to sharing his previously uncontested domain with a new sibling—we got Kaspar a few "There's Going to Be a New Baby" type books. One of these books also addressed the typical questions preschoolers come up with when their moms' bellies suddenly have babies in them—namely, how did the baby get in there? (And how will he get out?)
The book's explanation for the latter question was pretty accurate and detailed, which I approved of and appreciated. I also appreciated its decidedly abstract approach to the subject of conception; it said something about parents making a baby being akin to putting a puzzle together, with each parent contributing a piece, then moved swiftly on to the baby growing inside the mommy's belly. Super vague on the sex front, right? But Kaspar bought it, and I was down with that.
My relief around this whole conversation (or, rather, definite dodging of a conversation) surprised me. I think of myself as being really sex-positive, as being the kind of parent who can talk matter-of-factly about bodies and what they do. I never thought I'd freak out over the inevitable baby-making "talk." But when Kaspar brought it up again a full two years later, I became flustered once again, mumbled something about puzzles, and then said, to my husband, "Aaron, can you field this? I'm kind of busy here making dinner." My husband told Kaspar we'd get a book his own dad got him to explain this stuff. I shot Hubs a look like, Seriously? No. This does not need to be weird! Except, of course, I was also being totally weird about it. Kaspar had moved on to talking about Ninjago by the time this exchange was complete, so we left it at that for the time being.
A few nights later, however, when Aaron was out at a networking thing and I sat down with the boys for dinner, Kaspar asked, "I know that book about babies explained how babies are made, but I just don't really get it. It said there are puzzle pieces but I don't really understand."
I knew I had to pony up and do this right or I'd regret it later; wherever my own inexplicable weirdness around the conversation was coming from, it was obviouslymine, and I didn't want to make it his.
He couldn't have been more clear in articulating his confusion. I knew I had to pony up and do this right or I'd regret it later; wherever my own inexplicable weirdness around the conversation was coming from, it was obviously mine, and I didn't want to make it his. I think it was actually less about sex than about this being one of those never-go-back moments in parenting, like when your kid looks you right in the eye and asks you if Santa is real. You can't lie. But you can't take back the truth for them once it's out there. (Mine is still totally on board with Santa.) So I said to Kaspar, "I can explain it. Do you really want me to? It might seem kind of strange to you, because you're a kid and making babies is a grown-up thing. But I can tell you."
"Yeah, I want you to tell me; I don't get the puzzle pieces," he said.
"OK, so ..." (Deep breath.) And I told him, being careful not to make a big deal of it—just body-part, body-part, sperm, egg, baby. I included a little addendum about same-sex relationships and test tubes and adoption and single parents and families coming in many shapes and sizes, etc., but basically it was a pretty direct, short and point-blank explanation.
Kaspar, for his part, listened without interrupting for longer, maybe, than he ever has before in his life. His eyes did become pretty wide at the penis-in-the-vagina juncture and he said, "You're freaking me out!" But then he sat and listened to the rest, shrugged, "Oh, OK," and went back to eating dinner, discussing plans for a Lego fortress and being his normal self.
"Do you have any questions about anything I just said?" I asked him.
"OK, well, you know you can ask me anything."
"Can we play with Carson at the playground tomorrow?"
He hasn't brought it up again since.
So. We did that. And it went fine. And although I was initially more prudish than I'd ever have expected when it came to talking about sex with my kid, I think my ultimate explanation/attitude around it was right on point. Phew. I'm assuming Kaspar will tell Otto when Otto starts asking, so I'm probably off the hook for doing this again, but if not? Next time it's definitely my husband's turn.
When and how did you explain baby-making to your littles? How'd it go?