So we know when we become parents that eventually we will have to answer the big, difficult questions in life. Why do people die? Why do bad things happen? Why do England never win the World Cup?
We know these questions are coming and we brace ourselves for their arrival and wonder how we might ever be able to provide an adequate answer that is simple enough for a child to comprehend, but also manages to be truthful.
The big, one of course, is in the title. And it is one that is likely to emerge at a surprisingly early stage when those around us become pregnant and large-bellied followed by the magical appearance of shiny, new babies.
Because our children are still often babies themselves when they first start pondering the emergence of new life, we are at a loss as to how to translate this complex biological process into simple, child-friendly language and concepts.
And this is where things started to go wrong for me. Put unexpectedly on the spot and asked to explain SEX in child-friendly terms, I panicked; groped blindly in the depths of my imagination; and pulled out …….Maroon 5.
As a result (and much to the amusement of my friends), my children’s simplistic understanding of the baby making act is drawn from my spur of the moment loan of the lyrics to ‘Moves like Jagger’ and they are fully conversant with the ‘special moves’ required for baby creation to occur.
Now before you judge me on this and wonder why I didn’t manage to come up with something a little more technical, may I remind you that children have a uncanny ability to choose the prime time moments to engage their target in discussion about difficult topics, making it impossible to shirk out of it with promises to ‘discuss it later’. Generally this means they ask questions in the car. When you can’t escape.
So to summarise, the special moves conversation went something like this:
Faith: ‘How did I get out of your tummy?’
Me: ‘Well ……’ (brief summary of both options: c-section (how she actually got out of my tummy) and natural childbirth with the clarification that this is the traditional way for babies to make their appearance.)
Faith: ‘I don’t like either of those ways. I’m not having babies. How do you tell your tummy not to have babies?’
Me: ‘Well it’s not quite as straightforward as that. The two people need to decide they want to have babies and then do ‘special moves’ to make them.’
Faith: ‘Can you tell us what the special moves are?’
Me: ‘Well, it’s a bit complicated…’
Faith: ‘You need to tell us so we will know when we are grown-ups.’
Me: ‘OK.’ (Very simplified version of baby making.)
Faith: ‘So did you do that?’
Me: ‘Well I have 2 babies, so…yes.’
Ana (with undisguised disgust): ‘That’s very unpleasant.’
Fast forward to this week and I once again find myself in discussions about the intricacies of reproduction when Faith launches into another car journey conversation on the big topic:
Faith: “Why is it the girls who have babies in their tummy and not the boys?”
Me: “Because girls have a special place in their tummy to grow the babies in.”
Faith: “But Daddy has got a fatter tummy than you so he would have more room.”
Naturally I chortled conspiratorially at this (mainly on the basis that my own tummy has grown fatter recently and it’s good to know that Daddy still has the edge on that one), but then attempted to explain in full the biological differences between males and females. This obviously led to yet another discussion on how babies get out of your tummy, which I did my best to explain (again).
Apparently satisfied with my response, Faith decided to try a quick interview to assess my own experiences and inquired curiously:
‘If you could choose to have baby come out of your ‘bits’ (I know, not the best word for them, but it works for our family – you clever parents can keep your cute/more appropriate names) and make them hurt, or for the doctors to cut a hole in your tummy and then knit it back together, which would you rather?’
Ummm…I would probably rather not think about it to be honest, Faith.
But I know this is part of my job: to endlessly attempt to provide satisfactory answers to a whole host of complicated and often challenging questions, so I will continue to do my best (however much my answers may fall short of the mark).
And just to confirm – my flawless, no nonsense explanations have clearly ensured that my children have a good, age-appropriate understanding of what is involved in baby making. Today, in the car, Ana (demonstrating once again that my children have the memories of goldfish and therefore it actually doesn’t matter what I tell them, it will almost immediately be forgotten) asked
“So how ARE babies made?”
To which Faith confidently replied “Ana, we know this. They are made out of body parts.”
And there you have it. All that effort and angst, and baby-making for my youngest child is likened to creating Frankenstein’s monster. What more confirmation do we need of my inferior mothering skills!
Maybe I should withdraw that application to be a Biology teacher….