(Warning – If reading the name and function of mammalian reproductive body parts offends you, you should skip this post.)
“I get that there’s eggs inside a mommy, but how does it turn into a baby sheep?” Caleb, my 6 year old inquired.
We were driving home from a church activity where we saw a bunch of farm animals. Tenille was driving, and she turned to me sitting in the passenger seat with an expression on her face that seemed to indicate that ‘Dad will be fielding this one.’
I knew that we were going to have the “how-to” talk on babies at some point… but I suppose I didn’t really think it was going to be for a while. I had resolved to myself that I would be as straight-forward as possible and not start talking about weird metaphors that were incomprehensible. Resolving to do this theoretically, and getting cold-called by your 6 year old son out of the blue are two very different scenarios.
“Uhhh…. well… “ Composure… composure…. How detailed am I supposed to answer this? “Well… inside the mommy is the eggs… and inside the daddy is the sperm… When you put an egg and sperm together, the egg turns into a baby sheep.” The end!
Pause….. Are we good?
Caleb is not a dumb boy, and I knew there was a giant gaping hole in my explanation. After I cringed and waited for about 10 seconds, he asked the dreaded follow-up…. “But how does the sperm get to the egg?”
“That’s a great question Caleb. Your mother will be answering that question… “ Tenille didn’t seem pleased.
By this point I had composed myself and had fully committed myself to explain the details of reproduction. I broke in, took a deep breath, and explained in one long exhale:
“Sperm is created and stored in testicles. When a mommy and daddy mammal are ready to make a baby (and people are mammals just like sheep), the sperm comes out of the penis and is put into the mommy’s vagina which is an opening that a girl has where your penis is. This is called sex. The sperm then finds where the egg is inside the mommy. When the sperm meets up with the egg, the egg turns into a baby.” Done! Inhale…..
This is where Andrew, our 3 year old breaks in “But, what about Andrew?” he screams. We’re not even sure what this is supposed to mean, but we all laugh because we don’t know what else to do. Andrew laughs, too, as if he got what he was asking for. (a little attention.)
I looked back at Caleb and he seemed contemplative. (Danger! Danger!) I think I could have ended it there, and I was pretty sure I wanted to be done with the conversation, but the cold mechanical explanation felt unsatisfying. Who knows what was going through his head at that moment. Ending the conversation there felt irresponsible.
I think after getting over the logistical explanation and the use of body parts, there’s really only contextual information left. And this part wasn’t as difficult or awkward. We explained about puberty, hormones, and the onset of desire to have sex. We discussed the importance of making babies and keeping sexual activity within marriage. We discussed modesty and keeping private parts private. We told him that he will hear about this topic from friends who will likely not know what they’re talking about and treat it irreverently. That if he has further questions, he can come talk to mommy or daddy and we’ll tell him whatever he wants to know. Preferably, he should start with mommy, but he can come try daddy for the ugly straight talk.
A model of reproductive education we are not. Apparently, my explanation was not as crystal clear as I had thought as we did have to make a clarification during the follow up session that it was a bit different than a boy peeing on a girl.
Hopefully, there will be a few more opportunities to correct some of those minor details in the upcoming years. In the meanwhile, hopefully the “don’t make babies before marriage” message will stick and save us both from any embarrassing experiments.