***Disclaimer: I don’t sugar-coat much in my life (aside from my coffee and the occasional bowl of off-season strawberries). When my kids ask me what might be termed, “embarrassing questions”, I use real words to answer them. Otherwise, the way I see it, I am teaching them to feel shameful about their questions and themselves; poison for any child. If real words offend you, you should probably stop reading now. If not, you’ll want to read to the end. And for those of you who have been there/done that already with your own kids, you could have warned me.***
A few nights ago, I was snuggling in bed with my six year old when she became chatty about everything from the books she’s been reading (Magic Tree House) to why women weren’t allowed in the Olympics and what kind of rocket ship she would build to go into space. All great stuff, but at 10:15pm I’m thinking, “For God’s sake, child. Just pass out already.” I was dangling off the cliff of consciousness when she lays this zinger on me:
“Mom, how does the sperm get to the egg if they’re in two separate bodies?”
Yep, just like that. I quickly jerked myself back from the edge of consciousness and felt the air leave my lungs for a minute. I had imagined the whole “where do babies come from” question would slip out from the back seat during a drive home from school one day or maybe during a quiet moment over a “just girls” lunch when she was at least ten. Nope – it smacked me in the face. In the dark. On a school night. When Genevieve was only six.
For about 4 seconds, I buried my face in my pillow and tried to stifle the irrepressible laugh that was erupting in my chest. I knew if she sensed my reaction, her double-wide door of uninhibited candor with me would be shut and dead-bolted on me forever. I took a breath.
Me: “Well, sweetie, what happens is the sperm comes out of the man’s penis. He has to put his penis inside a woman’s vagina for the sperm to find its way to the egg.”
This explanation was met with an excruciatingly long pause during which my face was unrecognizably contorted because I could see the words “sperm”, “penis” and “vagina” hanging in the air above our heads like conversation bubbles in a comic strip. I wished like mad I could have seen her inquisitive face in the dark trying to make sense of the information she had just received.
Then, logically, she asked:
“Can the woman feel the sperm trying to find the egg?”
At this point, I’m scolding myself, “Don’t laugh. Don’t do it. DO NOT MAKE A PEEP, ALLISON.” So, I reply:
“Oh nooooo, they are *super* small and swim *super* fast, so the woman doesn’t feel it. But really, honey, what’s important to know here is that this only happens when two parents reeeeeeally love each other……..and it only happens after they get married.”
Feeling as though I had responsibly fulfilled my parental duty and thrown in the whole, “wait until marriage” thing (haphazardly as it may have been), I thought surely this would be the end of questions for the evening. I mean, honestly – shouldn’t the melatonin I doped her up on have kicked in by now? Nope. Another, dare I say, pregnant pause and then:
“But how does the sperm get into the woman’s body if the people are wearing clothes?”
“Well, they’re not usually wearing clothes when this happens.”
“But, again – this happens when two parents really love each other and they are happy to share that kind of closeness…the kind that only happens when you’re married. And baby, I want you to know that I’m glad you’re asking me all kinds of questions. You can *always* ask me ANYTHING and I’ll always tell you the truth about EVERYTHING, so just always let me know if you have any questions. About anything. Ever.”
Even though I haven’t gotten into the important topics of IVF, donors or less traditional families, I’m feeling pretty good now, so I figure I’m gonna go ahead and make sure I put the Sex Talk badge on my parenting sash tomorrow and wear it all over town, but then after another long pause she has one last question:
“Hey Mom, I just want to know about how Darth Vader became Darth Vader again.”
And like any good mother who would rather not get into the messy details I say, “Well, your dad really knows more about that than I do. Let’s ask him in the morning.”