Let’s talk about sex (maybe)

30 Jun

My little girl is growing up fast. Each day brings a new question. At the moment she is preoccupied with life and death – natural things to be curious about but which probably present the most difficult questions for a parent to answer without rattling the foundations of innocence. Of course, it can be highly amusing and I’m sure that upon being asked “When are you going to die?” Nanna saw the comedy value rather than suddenly dwell on her mortality.

Given a choice between life and death, death is probably the easiest to explain. My explanation of it involves aspects that 3-year-olds can’t fail to enjoy – flying into the sky, living on a cloud, becoming a star. For the moment at least, it involves a suspension of disbelief that a child is willing to accept without too many objections. As an atheist, it often feels like it would be easier to have a ready-made religious solution to the question of what happens when we die. But given that at some point the myth of Father Christmas will be shattered, I’d rather not break my kids’ hearts twice.

So what about “Where do babies come from?” This one requires pause for though. If you’re not prepared then you risk providing a shoddy explanation. My explanation is an example in point:

Daughter: How are babies made?

Me: Well, a daddy has a seed and a mummy has a seed and when those two seeds get together a baby grows in the mummy’s tummy.

Daughter: But how does the seed get into mummy’s tummy? Do you eat it?

Me: No, you don’t eat it.

Daughter: Well how does it get there then?

Here I pause. I’m standing at a fork in the road. Do I try and approximate the truth without too much detail? Do I be honest and risk her relaying a half-understood and inevitably outlandish description of sexual intercourse to her nursery chums and teachers? Storks? Tooth fairies doing other jobs to supplement their main income?  I do what all good parents would do – I backtrack and lie:

Me: Well, yes, actually you’re absolutely right. Mummies do eat the seed. Well done. Clever girl.

Since that conversation my daughter picks the seeds off the top of bread rolls and refuses to eat them. Tomatoes can present a bit of a problem.  At least she understands the concept of contraception and for that I will be grateful one day.

She’s seems moderately satisfied for the moment. Yet still the baby questions come so yesterday I decided to defer any form of parental responsibility and buy her a book. Even better – we were due to visit Nanna after town so Nanna could read her the book. Excellent plan!  However, the book is still in its bag, firmly hidden away and here I am praying my daughter doesn’t remember that we bought it. I didn’t flick through the book as carefully as I should have done before making the purchase. I just saw the page describing how babies start with a “special cuddle”. How lovely, I thought, that’ll do the job. What I didn’t  do was flick to the next page where there was an illustration of mummy and daddy having that special cuddle. It was a step too far for what I could show my little girl without opening up a whole new raft of questions. (The daddy has a beard – it was all a bit too 1970s. I might as well give her a copy of The Joy of Sex. And it uses the word sperm where ‘tadpole’ would – for a 3-year-old – clearly suffice. Eww!)

And so the eating of the seed story lives to see another day. If that means no more granary toast – so be it. Well, at least until she’s 16.

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8 Responses to “Let’s talk about sex (maybe)”

  1. tatia June 30, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

    Brilliant – lovely to read. Don’t give her any kiwis 🙂 x

  2. riponlady June 30, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Reminds me of a friend’s son who, after a similar conversation be it at a slightly older age than 3, was found peeing on the flowerbeds in the garden to “grow a baby with my seed!”

  3. James Wilson (@alawyerwrites) July 1, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    There are many, many times when I have to explain to those in the UK that the word “Kiwi” has three primary meanings, and the fruit is the third of them. Worse, we never even use the word in reference to fruit (it is always “kiwifruit”, never just “kiwi”), so I still get caught out before realising what people are referring to.

    This is the first time the confusion has arisen in the context of sex education; I can only hope it is the last ..

  4. Wife Mother Disaster (@Kyla_Burnett) July 3, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Lovely! Made me have a real little chuckle to myself. Fortunately my 3 year old hasn’t asked these question’s yet, even though my sister has just had another baby. Ignorance seemingly blissfull for the moment.
    Granary Bread hahaha! Brilliant!

  5. Jill July 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    That’s a lovely post, my son’s not at the age yet to start asking questions and I haven’t a clue what our answers will be, I’m sure it’ll depend on whether he chooses a moment when were not ready for it.

    Love that she won’t eat seeds now, better keep away from pomegranates and all other heavily seeded fruit. X

  6. Heather September 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Thankfully I managed to go a whole pregnancy without my three year old asking how the baby got in there. For some reason she just accepted there was a baby in my tummy. She didn’t even ask how it was coming out. She has however been asking why her brother has a willy! And what is it for?

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