Monday, October 12, 2009

The Birds, Bees, Goats and Ancient Pyramids

Children ask questions -- all kinds of interesting, random questions. Some are easy to answer: What is snow? (Frozen precipitation that falls from the clouds). Why do we order pizza three times a week? (Mommy doesn't have time to cook and Facebook, sweetie).
Others, however, are much more difficult: Why does God allow bad things to happen? Why do people hurt each other?
Those certainly are challenging to answer for any parent. But there is one particular question that sends chills up and down the spines of Mommies and Daddies everywhere. It doesn't matter how unflappable you think you are or how many issues of Child or Parenting magazines you've read to prepare you. Even if you've DVRed every single episode of Oprah, there's a question that undoubtedly will catch you off guard.
One day, out of the blue, your sweet, rosy-cheeked little munchkin will put down his Legos, turn to you and ask, "Where do babies come from?"
That's when you-- Calm, Cool, Collected Parent Extraordinaire--will suddenly turn into a panicky, heart-palpitating mess of nerves. Everything you ever learned about parenting will disappear from your hippocampus faster than Hugh Hefner can pop a Viagra. In that moment, you'll forget that you are supposed to answer the question simply, honestly and in terms your little one can understand. You won't recall that you are not supposed to use incorrect terminology for body parts (no "peepees" or "woowoos", I'm afraid) or that you should only answer what the kiddos ask, without elaborating further.
Nope. Ain't gonna happen.
As a parent who has been asked that question twice now, I assure any newer parents that when Junior begins the birds and bees inquiry, you'll most likely get a little queasy; you'll probably look around the room nervously to make sure there are no witnesses; and then, there's an exceedingly good chance you'll lie.
When my oldest child was in kindergarten, we lived in a very rural area. On the way to and from school each day, we passed a farm that was home to a herd of goats. One warm spring afternoon, the daffodils along the farm were just poking their sunny heads up from the cool ground, and I couldn't resist pointing out the blossoms to my daughter.
"Look at those" I proclaimed, "Aren't they beautiful?"
"Mom?" five-year-old Kelsey said, "What in the world are they DOING?"
Something in the alarming way she asked the question let me know she wasn't talking about the daffodils. Only then did I notice that most of the goats on the farm had paired up and were going at it like it was a 1970s key party, and I had unwittingly pointed them out. Me and my stupid penchant for daffodils!
"They look funny, Mommy," Kelsey said. "Why are those goats on the backs of those other goats?"
I almost swerved off the road before I regained my composure.
Sure. I certainly could have answered her question honestly. I like to think I'm a fairly intelligent, rational, honest, conscientious parent. But when she asked, it caught me off-guard. I wasn't expecting it. And we all know that if I said, "Well, the goats are making babies," her next question was going to be "HOW are they making babies?" And since I wasn't allowed to use words like peepee and woowoo, I felt woefully unprepared.
So I said this, instead: "Why, sweetie! Those goats are playing leapfrog! Look at 'em go! What a big ol, fun spring game of leapfrog!"
It wasn't my proudest parenting moment.
As Kelsey giggled and said, "Leapfrog! Leapfrog!" I swore to myself that I'd buy her some age-appropriate books on the topic (of babies, not goat sex) and be honest and prepared the next time she asked. But I also secretly hoped she'd accept all the wrong baby-making ideas she heard on the school playground. Heck. Until I was in third-grade, I thought babies were made if the Mommy drank a glass of milk and then the Daddy touched her boobs (coincidentally, that is how my second child was conceived, but that's another story).
Thankfully, Kelsey didn't ask me the question again until she was in third grade, and by that time she had mostly figured out the process from the afternoon I accidentally left the television on MTV's Spring Break coverage (hint, hint parents).
After the leapfrog fiasco, you think I would have been primed and ready with child number two. I certainly told myself I would be. But children are like ninjas with those sex questions! You never see them coming until it's too late. Then you're trapped.
At least Kelsey asked in the privacy of our car. I wasn't so fortunate with my son.
When Kyle was six, I had to take him the pediatrician for a sore throat. Since it was the beginning of the school germy season, we were jammed into a packed waiting room with dozens of other parents and kids.
While the parents suffered through the Disney shows on theTV, the kids were busy doing what kids do in waiting rooms: sharing each other's sippy cups, chewing on books, picking at their runny noses, trading toys, and otherwise guaranteeing that if we weren't really sick when we went into the doctor's office, we certainly would be when we left it.
I had just called Kyle over to bathe him in hand sanitizer for the 76th time, when a nurse turned down the volume on the television to summon a child who had not answered her initial calls to go back and see the doctor (smart kid).
In that oddly quiet moment, my sweet, normally shy little boy looked up at me with his big blue eyes and proceeded to yell, "HEY, MOM! WHERE DO BABIES COME FROM?"
Suddenly, every eye in that room was on me quicker than CNN gets Anderson Cooper outside in a hurricane.
Time stood still.
The children looked expectant; the parents looked petrified.
Even the nurse stopped and stared at me, her mouth ajar.
For a second, I considered screaming, "That nurse just told me that every kid in here gets a shot today!", then grabbing Kyle and running out of the waiting room in the ensuing chaos. But that would be wrong . Plus, there were too many kids blocking the way.
Instead, I stammered, "Well, um, Kyle, you see…"
The children were all circling around me. I noticed that the shock had worn off for a few parents, who were frantically waving at me behind their children, shaking their heads and mouthing, "NoNoNoNoNoNoNo." Other parents seemed pasty, frozen and in need of more medical care than their coughing, runny-nosed kiddos.
"Kyle, you see, it's like when the, ummmm… "
A dad across the room looked like he might pass out at any moment.
"When Mommies and Daddies really love each other…"
My heart was racing, and I considered asking the nurse for oxygen -- or at least a lollipop to plug up my kid's mouth. Unfortunately, I didn't see any goats playing leapfrog, so I couldn’t use that again…
Thank goodness, Kyle began to speak before I could blurt anything about peepees and woowoos.
"Oh! Now I remember," Kyle said. "When Mommies & Daddies love each other, they pray for a baby, and then the babies come from the ancient pyramid! Right?"
I looked at the other parents, who suddenly snapped out of their stupor and began to nod their heads vigorously at me. Do it, they urged me. Lie.
"Yes, sweetie! That is exactly right! Babies come from the ancient pyramid!"
Miraculously, Kyle and all of the children in the waiting room seemed perfectly happy with that answer. They immediately went back to trading tissues and licking chairs.
Again, I'm not proud of myself. I know it was wrong to lie to a roomful of children about the birds and the bees and to give my child an inaccurate portrayal of the miracle of life.
I'll be prepared to explain it to him the next time he asks, which I hope falls sometime around MTV's spring break coverage.
In the meantime, knowing that I am woefully unprepared to deal with the tough questions kids ask, I'm not letting my husband anywhere near my boobs if I've had a glass of milk.


  1. lol, jenn... i explained to katherine in terms of cats first; then, when she asked me about human babies, i reminded her that i'd already explained... that it worked the same way for people. she replied, "i know!!! i know!!! the boy cat sticks his fibula into the girl cat's bagina; but how are BABIES REALLY born???" whew!!!
    did i mention that this conversation took place in the church parking lot on a wednesday night after children's programming!!?!?

  2. This made me giggle. alot